Dumon Tak, Bibi. (2008). Soldier Bear. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Batchelder Book, Children’s Literature, Historical Fiction
Soldier Bear brings light to a heavy subject of war. Throughout the book there is lots of humor between Voytek and the other characters and the irony of a bear carrying out human tasks was really entertaining and cute. I enjoyed the historical background that the book also shared about WWII at the time. This would be a great book to integrate into a history lesson. The story of Voytek being taken in by the soldiers also reminded me of the story of the story of Winnie. Scholastic says that the age range is Grades 9-12 and it could be because of some of the images of alcohol or smoking. Older ages would definitely still enjoy this book and I think under the right circumstances it could be read to a younger class as also.
I liked the story and illustrations. It reminded me of a shortened version of a visual historical fiction book that I read as a younger child. The plot was engaging and the humor was definitely my favorite part of the story. I think older students could also appreciate the humor of a bear participating in war activities although the war isn’t a laughing matter. On the softer side, it shows that the soldiers cared enough about him to take him in. I really liked that because as a younger child I always thought soldiers were scary and mean. I think this book shares a lot of valuable lessons with a bit of historical insight. If it were to be paired with excerpts from a text- book on WWII it would be fun to make connections between the two texts.
After reading Soldier Bear, discuss with your table how Voytek served as an important member in the story.
- How does Voytek prove himself to be a valuable team member to the other soldiers?
- Why are the soldiers unable to return to Poland when the war ends?
- Do you think the ending is happy or sad? Why?
After reading Soldier Bear, research WWII to make connections through both texts.You can use books, magazines or an Ipad or computer. Find similarities and differences between the two sources and share them with the class.