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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+

Shadow of the Bear: a fairy tale retold - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Doman, Regina.  (2008) The Shadow of the Bear: a fairy tale retold.  Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93180-7.  Author recommended age 14+. recommends age 14+.  

Publisher's Description: Once upon a time... In New York City, a young, secretive street tough who calls himself, Bear, lands on the doorstep of two teenaged sisters. On the one hand Rose is delighted with his surprising knowledge of literature, poetry, and music; on the other hand Blanche is afraid of his apparent connections to drugs, murder, and a hidden treasure. Even as Blanche learns to trust him, her fears that Bear's friendship threatens their family prove terrifyingly true.


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

Integrity is the enacting of one’s stated values. This story is all about integrity. Each girl must revisit her desires vs. her values constantly throughout the book, and then choose which to follow. The self-talk is realistically worded and poignant, making emotions and confusion clear yet also showing clear reasoning towards making the best choices. For example,   Rose feels badly when she is invited to senior prom rather than Blanche, who is the senior.  Also, Rose makes poor choice to go to house party, going against her gut instinct. But once in a dilemma, she refuses to succumb to popular behaviour and finds a way out of the situation.  True friendships are portrayed and contrasted with shallow alliances of other kids who have no real concern for one another but, instead, simply use one another to their own benefit.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

Active (perhaps pro-active) parenting is modeled in this story. The freedom of teens is balanced with a responsibility to keeping their mother informed of all activities, keeping to curfew and obeying other rules of the home.  Rituals are adhered to including family meals; home responsibilities are shared; the parent is in charge as a benevolent ruler.

 At school, while the  principle is not very understanding, the teachers do show sincere interest in their students.  

The police are treated with respect, and their authoritative roles are clear. These characters show appropriate level of concern for the situations into which the girls fall, without being preachy or cheesy. 

All authority figures are thus properly portrayed and respected.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

The girls’ loyalty to one another, their mother, and their deceased father is consistently strong. Their family is more important than being accepted by kids at school, and they defend one another.  Respect for their church and its premises indicates loyalty to their religious “family” as well. Finally, as their friendship develops with Bear, he too benefits from their loyalty as they do his.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


Good and evil are clearly distinguished. The influence of evil upon decision making is also apparent, and the author has provided characters who, by living their values and beliefs, do not end up in hopeless situations. Instead, they arrive to points where their is a good choice available, even if not entirely clear at the onset. 

Evildoers are obvious, such as the thief/murderer. It is also more subtle and intuitive in the description of the popular kids and Rose’s interactions with/observations of them.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

The dialogue between characters and self-talk are both culturally rich. Banter between sisters and their friend Bear is intelligently witty and wise. It can switch from fretting over clothing to a thought provoking discourse on poetry, music or literature, the description of which adds beauty and depth so the story is never flat. It has no negative or dark elements or humor, in spite of being very suspenseful murder mystery. There is lots of action without unnecessary gore and violence.  And the emotions felt of being an unpopular teen at school are realistically portrayed.  

Love is an underlying theme throughout the story. The girls’ love for one another and their mother is ongoing, and it grows in the budding friendship with Bear.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

Beginning with a drug sale early in the story, it does detail the world in which teens exist today.  Realizing Rob is probably interested in her body more than her, Rose still lets herself be coaxed into a bedroom at a beer party, she chooses to wear a dress a little less modest than should be worn which implies teasing that adds to the situation.  She is later kidnapped by her peers and in a situation of near death.  There are no hidden agendas of which to be concerned. However, parents of younger gifted readers should consider teen lifestyles prior to deciding if this story is appropriate for their child.  See author website for parent guide to aid you in deciding acceptability for younger readers.'s%20guide%20to%20Shadow.pdf

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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