The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Published March 3rd 2020 by Scholastic Press

Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength.

So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past.

But deep in the forest there are many dangers and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest . . . forever.

REVIEW:

They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found. Only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.

Yanka has always felt out of place in her village, because of her strength and size. The one place she feels like herself is in the forest, where the most exciting, and terrifying, stories come from. Found in a bear cave as a baby, she has always wondered what secrets there are in her past, and if she will ever know them. So one day, when a fateful choice causes her to wake up with bear legs, she sets off into the depths of the forest to discover what makes her special, and finds a lot more than her own story.

First off, I’d like to commend the imagery of the story, and the stories inside. Fantastically told and bursting with detail, it was instantly captivating. Every character tells a different tale that is not only integral to the plot but full of its own individuality, so much so, that I couldn’t tell if it was going to play into the plot or just be there for entertainment purposes. It was obvious that everything included was an important piece of information, and Anderson clearly had every word planned from the start.

This book reminded me “Lalani of the Distant Sea” by Erin Entrada Kelly, with its stories and the strong themes of family, friendship, and overcoming your fears. There are an abundance of lovable characters who all have stories of their own. The plot unfolded in such a way that I had no idea how it was ultimately going to end, and I didn’t know which stories were going to come into play.

I recommend this book for middle grade readers. There is no coarse language or substance abuse, and no sexual interactions (there really isn’t romance at all).

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