The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

Values: Determination, Acceptance, Kindness, Friendship, Hope, Confidence, Empathy.

Ever since I read this book at the end of 2019, I have been obsessed with it. I have recommended it to SO many teachers and have read it to my own class, creating an entire English unit around it. The author, Sophie Anderson, even kindly gave feedback on Twitter to some of the children's writing that they sent her.

This marvellous story centres around Yanka who looks different to the other children in her village. She is much bigger and stronger and the children call her Yanka the Bear. One day, Yanka wakes up to find that she has developed bear legs. Scared, she runs away from home into the Snow Forest to trace her roots.

This is a story of determination, acceptance and kindness. It also has strong themes of friendship, empathy and community. When Yanka runs away, she is determined to find where she was born and her extended family. She faces danger, loses her best friend and sacrifices telling her Mamotchka the truth all in search of her quest to belong. Without spoiling the whole book, of course, Yanka comes to realise that maybe belonging is an emotional rather than physical state. Yanka goes on a journey metaphorically in this book (as well as literally) to discover what it is that is special about her, and how this creates who she is. She encounters the kindness of many animals, people and magical creatures along the route. We see Yanka leading a tribe through the forest to reach Smey the Fire Dragon. We experience Yanka believing in them all and their individual qualities and giving them confidence and hope that they are stronger together than separately. We ultimately watch Yanka as she learns to accept herself.

This is a modern book and so much depth and my Year 3 and 4 class were HOOKED. They begged me to read it every day. I thoroughly recommend it to all Key Stage Two children.

Find your copy here and follow the author, Sophie Anderson on Twitter: @sophieinspace

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