BY BIBI DUMON TAK
Bibliographic Information: Dumon Tak, Bibi. (2011). Soldier bear. Grand Rapids, Mich. :Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Interest level: Grades 4 and higher
Reading level equivalent: Grade 4
Part Two: Response to the book
For a book surrounding World War II, I predicted to learn about the realities and horrors of war. This book instead focuses on the peace and solace that soldiers find in caring for a bear during a difficult time. The Syrian brown bear brings joy and happiness to Polish soldiers and distracts them from the destruction going on around them.
Thoughts about particular issues raised in the book
The realities of war as they are told through biographies and other books usually focus on the horrors of war. While this story takes place during WWII, it concentrates mostly on the encouragement that Voytek brings to the Polish soldiers, thus illustrates resilience and hope in times of uncertainty. In the recent past, for over a decade, far too many US soldiers experienced horrific events from which they had no distraction. Certainly, there may not always be a Voytek to help distract soldiers in a time of need, still it is important that soldiers find an outlet from which they can gain hope in times of war.
Prompts you could use when reading the book with children
Private Voytek is recognized for “providing great support for the boys on the front who fought for our freedom” (Duman, 2011, p.135). To get students to think critically about Soldier Bear, I would ask them to think about the ways that Voytek provided great support to the soldiers.
Soldier Bear is the story of a Syrian brown bear, Voytek who is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in the deserts of Iran and brought to live with and travel with them during WWII. Over time, Voytek becomes a valuable member of their division as he helps the soldiers transport items such as food, supplies, and ammunition during the war.
The themes found in this book include, war, friendship, and love.
Perhaps it was the bland style of writing used to write this story that made it a boring read for me. Certainly, it conveyed great messages of friendship and strong bonds but its tone and delivery lacked enthusiasm, thus making it a long, dreadful read.
Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
Using the various art supplies provided to them, students will apply their creative skills to draw their favorite scene from the story, and will present a brief, accurate verbal description explaining the scene to their fellow classmates.
After reading Soldier Bear through its entirety, the teacher will instruct students to select a scene from the story and bring it to life through a drawing using the art materials in the classroom. Students will draw their scenes are large posters which will be hung on the classroom wall for decor. Once all students have finished their drawings, they will be required to present their work to the class. Students will be assessed on their understanding of their selected scene based on the accuracy of their verbal description of the scene.
Figurative language is used throughout this book to provide imagery.
Which scenes stood out to you most and why?
What strategies were used in the text to help remember this scene in particular?
Does your drawing reflect exactly what you see in the scene as you read it?