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 Sophie 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 junior and lower secondary 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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