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Christopher Moning (Children's Literature)
In order to avoid a prison sentence, fifteen-year-old Cole Matthews opts to spend a year alone on an island in Southwest Alaska. This alternative punishment is part of Circle Justice, a healing form of justice that has been practiced by native cultures for thousands of years. But Cole harbors resentment toward the world that no justice can placate. He torches his shelter, destroys his supplies, and then has a run-in with a giant white Spirit Bear that leaves him maimed and badly injured. But has this near death experience helped Cole accept the patience, gentleness, strength, and honesty that is Circle Justice's goal? Cole's parole officer and a Native American elder, Edwin, risk their reputations so that Cole can give the island another chance. Finally, Cole realizes that it is not through anger but through forgiveness that he will find redemption. The author, who lives with an adopted 700-pound black bear in Montana, does not shy away from describing the violent and sometimes gruesome confrontations with man and beast that Cole pits himself against. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 10 up.
Jan Lieberman (Children's Literature)
Cole has been in trouble with the law half of his life. At fifteen years old is it too late for him to be rehabilitated or is jail the only answer? He has lied convincingly to avoid jail but this time his victim is a fellow student, Peter, who may have suffered permanent brain damage. Ben Mikaelsen has written a powerful story in Touching Spirit Bear. Cole's social worker convinces authorities to try the Native American Circle Justice treatment that puts the offender on a remote Alaskan island where survival depends on his own inner strength. Even then, Cole's anger rages. It is the mauling he suffers by Spirit Bear that eventually changes him physically and spiritually. Mikaelsen's probing into the causes and nature of violent anger rings true. What affected me deeply was the healing power of the story. A must read for teens. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 12 up.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2001 (Vol. 69, No. 1))
Troubled teen meets totemic catalyst in Mikaelsen's ("Petey", 1998, etc.) earnest tribute to Native American spirituality. Fifteen-year-old Cole is cocky, embittered, and eaten up by anger at his abusive parents. After repeated skirmishes with the law, he finally faces jail time when he viciously beats a classmate. Cole's parole officer offers him an alternative--Circle Justice, an innovative justice program based on Native traditions. Sentenced to a year on an uninhabited Arctic island under the supervision of Edwin, a Tlingit elder, Cole provokes an attack from a titanic white "Spirit Bear" while attempting escape. Although permanently crippled by the near-death experience, he is somehow allowed yet another stint on the island. Through Edwin's patient tutoring, Cole gradually masters his rage, but realizes that he needs to help his former victims to complete his own healing. Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk, and if Cole's turnaround is dramatic, it is also convincingly painful and slow. Alas, the rest of the characters are cardboard caricatures: the brutal, drunk father, the compassionate, perceptive parole officer, and the stoic and cryptic Native mentor. Much of the plot stretches credulity, from Cole's survival to his repeated chances at rehabilitation to his victim being permitted to share his exile. Nonetheless, teens drawn by the brutality of Cole's adventures, and piqued by Mikaelsen's rather muscular mysticism, might absorb valuable lessons on anger management and personal responsibility. As melodramatic and well-meaning as the teens it targets. 2001, HarperCollins, $14.95. Category: Fiction. Ages 13 up. © 2001 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Janice M. Del Negro (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2001 (Vol. 54, No. 9))
Fifteen-year-old Cole Matthews has been in trouble with the law for years, the consequences of his antisocial behavior mitigated by expensive lawyers hired by his abusive but wealthy father. When Cole violently assaults Peter, a fellow student, he is in trouble so deep his father canít get him out. Garvey, an American Indian parole officer, arranges for the bitterly cynical and devious boy to be tried by Circle Justice, a traditional way of administering justice to the repentant guilty and solace to a wounded community. Garvey and Edwin, a generic wise Indian elder, convey Cole to an island where there is shelter and supplies; he is to remain there alone for a year, contemplating his life. With no intention of staying on the island, Cole burns down the shelter and destroys most of his supplies. After his escape plan fails, he encounters a huge white bear, a Spirit Bear, which severely mauls him. In his pain and delirium, he has a spiritual awakening that convinces him to change his life. Rescued by Garvey and Edwin, Cole recovers, and, determined to make good, he convinces the Circle to send him back to the island. Characterizations are flat and programmatic, with many of the players merely acting as functionaries for the drawn-out, farfetched plot. Coleís transformation from punk to pilgrim is too easily accomplished, and his parroting of American Indian wisdom is irritatingly earnest; on the other hand, his solitary life on the island is just the ticket for Paulsen fans, who will appreciate the survival story. Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2001, HarperCollins, 241p, $15.89 and $15.95. Grades 6-10.
Lucy Schall (VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2))
Mikaelsen tells a gory survival story that evolves into an inspiring and sophisticated coming-of-age journey via "Circle Justice." Cole Mathews blames everyone but himself for his criminal record and violent behavior, but when he agrees to isolation on a remote Alaskan island instead of jail time for his vicious attack on a fourteen-year-old boy, he confronts immovable natural forces and ancient Tlingit Indian wisdom. Cole is mauled by a Spirit Bear he tries to kill. His attitude and injuries abort his first wilderness sentence and focus his second. Physically weakened but mentally prepared, Cole, both criminal and victim, learns that his own healing will take place only when he can heal his spirit by helping Peter Driscal, the boy he attacked. Like Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (Simon & Schuster, 1987), which tells about survival through "tough hope," Mikaelsen's story portrays survival through tough love. Garvey, Cole's parole officer, and Edwin, a Tlingit elder who remains supportive and unrelenting, teach Cole how to build a meaningful life through their expectations, firmness, stories, dances, and personal examples. Their illustrations--bad-tasting ingredients that create a delicious cake, a stick that shows the relationship between anger and happiness, a cooking lesson that teaches the meaning of life--explain a kind of discipline that never deserts the criminal or forgets his crime. Cole's journey to self-realization and truth through hardship, confrontation, and ritual will fascinate young and old, promote fruitful discussion about the impossibility of happily-ever-after endings, and have everyone waiting for the sequel. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 241p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 18.
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0380977443 : f10.99|