3 out of 4 stars
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Daniel Meets the Spirit of the Bear: The Children’s Book For Everyone is an illustrated parable by Ron H. Rader. In a secluded cove in the Great Smoky Mountains, there is a little black bear cub named Daniel. He frolics across meadows of wildflowers, wild blackberry brambles, carpets of moss, and trout-filled rivers. Illustrated by Bob George, a combination of 36 colored and black-and-white illustrations occur over 52 pages. Children will enjoy spotting and naming the cardinals, possums, deer, turkeys, bears, raccoons, frogs, owls, blue jays, squirrels, rabbits, mice, skunks, and turtles. Reminiscent of a forested version of The Jungle Book, human figures also begin to appear alongside the animated creatures.
As a young cub, Daniel recalls his parents telling him that “everyone is born with an empty spot in their heart,” a void that others will try to fill with all the wrong stuff. They instruct him to approach life as a lesson and to seek out the “right stuff” in the special things intended to bring true-life fulfillment. One life-altering afternoon, Daniel finds himself startled by a sudden breeze and realizes things are often frightening when they are “unfamiliar and unknown” to you. An all-knowing spirit arrives on that breeze, assuring Daniel of his predetermined destiny and purpose.
The Voice on the wind instructs him to be “the spirit leader of the mountain children.” It urges Daniel to act as a disciple, sharing his inner radiance through hope, faith, and love (all represented within a glowing orb). Physically handing it over to others is meant to signify a selfless “sharing of the spiritual and guiding light.” This is a reminder for children that an omniscient, omnipresent entity exists.
One illustration depicts soldiers over the centuries, as a translucent bear spirit stands guard behind them, saying that in battles fought from WWI through Desert Storm, these brave souls were never alone. The story then shifts to mention of classrooms and spelling bees, and the illustrations transition to a diaphanous force helping a child ride a bicycle, a paw behind a baseball mitt, and a hovering presence in a hospital room of sick souls.
I greatly enjoyed the section that described and depicted a well-tended and cultivated garden with fruits and vegetables wearing representative and metaphorical labels like: “JOY, COURAGE, LOYALTY, PATIENCE, and LOVE.” It was also charming to see use of terminology like: “mountain hollers” and “spectacles,” and the tone of the tale is quite similar to the stories often told in Sunday school.
Fairly early on in the story, Daniel voices he is already “disappointed in himself” and it almost felt too premature in the storyline to introduce such a negative self-image. When the foreign breeze whips up out of nowhere, frightening Daniel, there is mention of him no longer having his parents for comfort. Since no direct, prior mention had been made of their demise or of the implied fact that he was maybe alone simply because he’d grown up into bear adulthood, this mystery might leave children a bit confused. These were the only two aspects I did not resonate with.
Some grammatical errors were present, primarily relating to typographical issues with spacing mistakes, missing punctuation, unnecessary punctuation, inconsistent capitalization, and pronoun discrepancies. Another round of thorough editing could easily correct these concerns and allow the story to shine unblemished, as it deserves to.
This sweet story would be appropriate for children ages 6 and up. A link even appears at the end of the story, urging readers to register online in order to receive an accompanying, free coloring book full of original sketches from when the story was in its initial stages of development!
This book receives 3 out of 4 stars, simply due to the quantitative presence of typographical errors. Intended to entertain, inspire, and motivate readers, young and old, this story positively highlights several of the necessary values and virtues we should all strive to wholeheartedly accept. Through positive guiding principles, readers are encouraged to: “Daily, renew your commitment to good.”
ADMIN NOTE: The book has been updated to correct the errors noted by the reviewer.
Daniel Meets the Spirit of the Bear
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