Tak, B., & Hopman, P. (2011). Soldier bear. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 8 and up
Grade Level: 3rd and up
Prompts: 1. Based on only the title and book cover, what do you think the book is about?
2. What are some clubs, teams, organizations, or other communities you have been part of that have a mascot? What purpose do you think mascots serve? Why might they be important to a military unit?
Predictions: With the cover of the book and knowing that the book won the Batchelder award for translation, I can assume that the bear on the cover is in some sort of war. It is not clear as to whether or not the bear agrees with the war or is against it, but something in his eyes makes me think he’s against it or doesn’t know the severity of it. Based on the buildings and landscape in the back, I can tell that the setting takes place in a poor, desert community.
Overview: Based on a real series of events that happened during World War II, Soldier Bear tells the story of an orphaned bear cub adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in Iran. The soldiers raise the bear and eventually enlist him as a soldier to ensure that he stays with the company. He travels with them from Iran to Italy, and then on to Scotland. Voytek’s mischief gets him into trouble along the way, but he also provides some unexpected encouragement for the soldiers amidst the reality of war: Voytek learns to carry bombs for the company, saves the camp from a spy, and keeps them constantly entertained with his antics.
Critique: This book was very well written and displayed. The setting, characters, and incidents throughout the book are enough to captivate young audiences as well as provide a few good laughs. Overall, this book has several emotions within it and is a great introduction to WWII and how it effected other countries. The drawings that fill the pages are beautiful, yet simple and not distracting. They provide a perfect sense of the book without giving away everything so that children can use their own imaginations.
Grade Level: Fourth Grade
Questions: Do you think animals can have personalities like people? What are some words you would use to describe Voytek’s personality? What bad habits does Voytek pick up from humans? Before leaving Scotland for Poland, the soldiers arrange for Voytek to be placed in the Edinburgh Zoo. Do you think leaving Voytek behind was the right thing to do? How do you think the soldiers felt about having to leave him behind?
Lesson Sketch: Choose a favorite chapter or scene in the story, and create a storyboard or comic that retells that part of the book. Using only drawings and minimal or no words, try to convey what happens in the story. (This is a great introduction to graphic novels!).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.7 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.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.6 Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
Offers an overview and questions to ask students.
Gives more info on the REAL soldier bear!
Blank templates for cartoon strips and more.