Ghost of Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Jan 13, 2011

 “Teen Suicide Tragedies Deadly Bullying - At least three teens, tormented by classmates have taken their own lives in the past month.  Why did this happen, and how can it be stopped.”  The cover of October 18, 2010’s issue of People Magazine caught my attention, so I read the inside story.  “He thought he was just being funny and cool, but then Daniel Harrison realized the true consequences of his ugly behavior.”  He had just finished reading one of Ben Mikaelsen’s books, Touching Spirit Bear. ““It was just perfect timing to read that book,” he says of the story about an angry teen who torments a white bear.” 

When I read the magazine, I had no idea it referenced Ben Mikaelsen, author of Ghost of Spirit Bear, the book I had just finished reading.  

The book’s theme is not just about bullying and its tragic affects on victims, teachers, parents, schools, and community.  Bullies can change their behavior.  Victims heal and forgive.  How?  In a fictional manner, this book suggests a possible solution.  What kept me reading was that I wanted to know that solution.

As punishment for permanently injuring a student, Cole Matthews was sent away to an Alaskan island.  For a year, he was required to live off the land.  During that period of time, he was injured by a bear, but found strength not only to overcome this tragedy, but also to release his angry and troubled spirit.   Now, a changed Cole has returned to school and has become the victim of bullying.  If Cole fights the bullies, he will likely serve time in jail.  If he tries to ignore and back away, they will continue to pick on him and his former victim now best friend, Peter Driscal.  It appears there is no solution.  But Cole finds the answer with an idea that stops the bullying and changes the environment of his school.   

Although this book is classified as young adult fiction, I would also recommend it for adults.  It’s also a great book to include in a book club discussion.

Reviewed by Library Staff