The Girl Who Speaks Bear follows the journey of Yanka, an unusually big girl from a small village. When a strange accident throws Yanka into a haze of uncertainty about herself, she leaves the familiarity of her village life behind and enters the perilous Snow Forest.
The book follows the familiar structure of a typical adventure story; a protagonist’s quest to discover the truth about herself by undertaking a challenging journey. The interlacing of Russian folk tales and themes with Yanka’s adventures give the story a traditional yet magical twist.
Throughout the book, Yanka encounters a range of interesting characters as she gets closer to the answers she seeks. Her comical companion on this trip (a ferret aptly named Mousetrap) adds a humorous element bound to entertain young readers. One of my favourite elements of The Girl Who Speaks Bear is Anderson’s depiction of a strong female protagonist. Yanka demonstrates courage and determination alongside compassion and emotional intelligence in equal measure, making her a great role model for young female readers.
Another highlight is the language of the book itself; it is lyrical, whimsical and endlessly descriptive which makes The Girl Who Speaks Bear a feast for the senses. Due to the frequency of high-level vocabulary, The Girl Who Speaks Bear would be best enjoyed by more advanced readers in the upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 age range. Younger readers might find the sophisticated language and themes slightly challenging. Readers who love books which feature fantasy, fairy tales and a wealth of furry creatures will be delighted!
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