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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Narnia books -- which also involve a portal into another world -- are often cited in the Misewa series, and Morgan is a serious fan of fantasy stories, whose conventions and expectations are a big part of how she sees the world. Cree culture and mythology are the story's foundation. Words and phrases in the Cree language are frequent and important. Also vocabulary-building English words such as "arduous" and "expletive."
Strong messages of family, friendship, courage, empathy -- and the fact that you can change your ways if you're behaving. badly, once you know better. Also teamwork and working together as a community, respect for traditional values, and preserving your culture for future generations.
Positive Role Models
Morgan and Eli, who've landed in the same foster home, are still working at the challenges of being siblings, which is a new experience for them. They have a strong, sustaining bond, and are loyal friends to each other and to their animal-being friends in Misewa. Morgan in particular has a lot of anger from a lifetime in foster care, and Eli's dealing with loss and trauma, but their experiences in Misewa, in which they face many challenges and are part of an extended family, help them overcome Earth-world problems. Animal-being friends Arik and Ochek, in their younger forms, are courageous companions; the Great Bear of the title is a good friend in Book 1, but in Book 2, set in the past, he seems to be terrorizing his neighbors and stealing their food. Morgan's best friend Emily is absent for the action in Misewa, but has an epic moment of facing down bullies back in middle school. The kids' foster parents are kind, well-meaning, and trying to do the right thing -- as Morgan notes, even when they do the wrong thing, they're coming from a good place and their intentions are good. A big issue in Morgan and Eli's life is getting in and out of the attic portal without their foster parents being any the wiser.
Eli and Morgan are Cree, and much of the story takes place in a world drawn from Indigenous culture and mythology. But in the everyday earthly world, Eli is bullied for his traditionally long hair, kept from using the boys' bathroom at school, and called a girl because of it. Morgan's friend Emily, who's White and one of the popular girls, has their back, and also has little regard for stereotypes.
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Violence & Scariness
Scenes of physical combat, resulting in characters being injured and/or knocked unconscious.As the story opens, Morgan is watching a cute, unsuspecting prairie chicken she ultimately kills with a slingshot as part of learning traditional values that include hunting. Eli is physically and emotionally bullied at school, and an important scene finds him, Morgan, and Morgan's friend Emily standing up to his tormentors together. Morgan frequently recalls being taken from her distraught birth mother as a toddler. In the world of Misewa, a huge bear is terrorizing the other animal beings and stealing their food. There are many ancient tales of a villain who steals the souls of his victims, and the cliffhanger ending finds an important character falling prey to him. The villain from Book 1 who plunged Misewa into endless winter has not yet made his appearance as the kids travel into the past, but he's on their minds and re-emerges in an unexpected time and place. Time travel causes a lot of emotional turmoil for the kids, as they are happy to be spending time with a younger version of a dear friend who dies in Book 1, but always aware of the future. A character learns that a long-lost family member has died.
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"Sucks," "crap," "douche," "screw up," "oh my god."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Great Bear is the second installment of David A. Robertson's Misewa series. The series involves the adventures of Morgan, 13, and Eli, 12, two Cree foster kids in Winnipeg, Canada, who find a portal into a fantasy world, steeped in Indigenous culture and tradition, and populated by animal beings who speak, wear clothes, and walk upright. In Book 1, they helped their new friends defeat a villain who'd plunged their world into eternal winter, and now every night they go through the portal in their foster home's attic to another adventure. In their everyday world, the kids are dealing with assorted troubles: Eli's being bullied at school for his long hair, and Morgan's in a quandary when she gets unexpected information about her long-lost birth mother. In Misewa, there's talk of a villain who steals his victims' souls, and one of the characters falls prey to him. The story involves time travel to a point 20 years earlier than the events in Book 1, which enables the kids to reunite with younger versions of their animal-being friends, one of whom has died in the first volume. There's a lot of worry and speculation about the perils of time travel, from not telling your friends what you know about the future to unintentionally changing the course of events. The Great Bear of the title is an important character in Book 1, but here his younger self is more into stealing his neighbors' food and destroying their homes. There's a climactic combat scene that leaves some of the characters unconscious or otherwise injured. Mild language includes "sucks," "crap," "screw up," "oh my god." The shocking cliffhanger ending finds one character in mortal danger and others determined to save them in Book 3.
Is It Any Good?
David A. Robertson adds time travel to the mix in Book 2 of his heart-filled, exciting story of two Cree kids in the Canadian foster system who find a portal to a fantasy world. Here much of the story revolves around The Great Bear -- who, in Book 1, 20 years in the future, is a beloved friend, but here is a villain who's scaring his neighbors, destroying their homes, and stealing their food. Adventures are nonstop, characters are complex and engaging, and there's the occasional show-stopping scene, as when Morgan, Eli, and Morgan's BFF Emily face down a pack of bullying middle-schoolers. A terrifying cliffhanger ending leaves the reader very anxious for Book 3.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.