I love graphic novels for children, and Bear by Ben Queen is a real gem. This book is for kids, but contains a dog (who is arguably an adult) and an adult human as a protagonist. I think kids and grown-ups alike can really appreciate this one. I read it in half an hour, and in that half hour I laughed and cried! So obviously this was a perfect read for me.

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The summary, from Amazon:

Bear is a guide dog for the blind, and he would do anything for his best friend and owner, Patrick. But when Bear suddenly loses his own vision, he worries that he has lost his purpose! Determined to protect Patrick at all costs, Bear sets out on a quest to regain his eyesight. Along the way Bear will learn to tap into his other senses and begin to see the world from a new perspective that is at times more rich and colorful than the world he’s always known. Writer Ben Queen (Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 and Cars 3) draws inspiration from real life stories of how memory can influence how we recall our own surroundings, and artist Joe Todd-Stanton (A Mouse Called Julian) lovingly renders an unforgettable story of one dog’s grand adventure from the wooded countryside to the heart of Manhattan where he encounters new friends and discovers his true calling.

Buy Bear here.

Bear is a guide dog for Patrick, a blind adult male. Patrick and Bear have a special bond, and though it’s evident these two love each other like all good owners love their dogs, Bear takes his job very seriously. At the start of this graphic novel, Bear thinks that’s what Patrick values most about him. (There’s not resentment here. It’s just how Bear thinks Patrick views things.)

One day while out with Patrick, Bear suddenly loses his vision. He becomes upset he won’t be able to do his job to protect Patrick. When a raccoon living under the house tells him he can help Bear get his vision back in the forest, Bear follows him. However, Bear ends up alone. He forms some unlikely friendships and travels through midtown Manhattan before finding his way back to Patrick, who spends the book looking for his beloved dog with the help of the teacher from the school Bear was trained at.

The visual humor in this book is stunning and hilarious. Bear has spent much of his life in a similar environment. He has no concept for some of the different animals and situations he encounters. For example, when he meets a bear, he pictures a giant version of himself because his name is Bear. I loved this aspect of the book, and I think kids will get a kick out of this humor too.

I loved that Bear features adult protagonists. I think if Patrick were to be a child, children who don’t know many disabled folks might get the impression that if you have a disability, you must live with caregivers. This is the case for some individuals, of course, but not everyone. Patrick uses tools like Braille and a cane (when Bear is not acting as a guide dog for him), and he has a successful career which he loves fixing vending machines. Patrick and Bear’s teacher also wind up becoming a couple by the end of the book. I loved the representation. It’s important that children see disabled folks lead rewarding lives with the same joys as able-bodied individuals.

This book has a very happy ending, with Bear and Patrick figuring out why Bear lost his vision and getting him the help he needs to regain it. Even if Bear were to lose his vision totally, it’s clear that Patrick loves him and they will always be companions. What an excellent, 5 star read!

Find out more about how I rate books here.

BearBear by Ben Queen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emotional and visually humorous, this is a children’s book adults will love too. I read it in about half an hour. An informative story about a guide dog and his adult owner. When Bear becomes visually impaired, he is frightened and worried he won’t be able to do his job any longer. When he leaves home looking for a way to solve his problem, he meets some unlikely friends who help him find his way back.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What do you think would have happened if Bear didn’t regain his vision?
  2. When Bear imagines things he hasn’t seen before (a forest, bears, a bat, gargoyles, the city), his mind pictures them differently than they really are. Why is this? What was your favorite thing he pictured and why?
  3. Is Bear’s story similar to Stone’s?
  4. How is Bear’s loss of vision similar to Patrick’s experience?
  5. Did you learn anything about blind folks or people with visual impairments while reading this book? What about service dogs, especially guide dogs like Bear?


Interested? Buy Bear.
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