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Book Review - The Girl Who Speaks Bear

2nd September 2019

Yanka is not like the other girls in the village. They call her Yanka the Bear. Not because of where she was found – only a few people know about that. They call her Yanka the Bear because she is so big and strong.

Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has never quite felt that she belongs in her small village. Despite a happy childhood with her Mamochka, her best friend Sasha and house weasel Mousetrap, she is all-too-aware of the whispers from her classmates.

Yanka is always hearing things in the forest and feels drawn towards it. The fleeting visits from Anatoly, who emerges from The Snow Forest armed with magical tales of wolves, dragons and Yaga houses, only amplifies its call. She can't help but think that the truth of her past lies deep in the dark between the trees. So when, after a fateful fall at the village festival, she wakes to find that her legs have become bear legs, she feels she has no choice but to answer the forest's call.

Stepping into The Snow Forest is like stepping into another world. The tall trees make Yanka feel small, her mind tingles and her senses come alive – she feels so close to the story of her past that she can almost hear it on the wind.

Yanka's quest to find out who she really is takes her on adventures to icy rivers, abandoned castles and smouldering mountains. From fending off ferocious wolves and rescuing an elk in distress, to journeying to the edges of the forest on a house with chicken legs, her journey of self-discovery sees her forming her own ever-growing herd of unlikely friends who help her on her mission.

Although Yanka wants to be carried by the Yaga house into a future in which she knows all of the stories and secrets of her past, she soon realises that it is in fact when she looks to the past that she sees what she truly wants in the future - a family who loves her.

This is a story of belonging, friendship and learning to be happy with who you are. Inspired by traditional folk tales of bears, princesses and dragons, the narrative is interwoven with compelling fairy tales which not only enhance the story's plot, but blur the boundaries between what's real and what's magic.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear is a gorgeously lyrical novel that utterly entrances its readers. Peppered throughout with captivating illustrations, it's a book made to be cherished and shared.

Here's what our Organisers thought:

"I absolutely loved the imagery. I really felt part of the story and enjoyed the nods to The House with Chicken Legs. I know my nine-year-old will love reading it and my seven-year-old will enjoy it as a shared read." Kath Saunders

Press reviews:

"Like Anderson's first novel, this is a tale of identity and belonging, but she is too good a storyteller ever to let moral messages slow down the plot. And, like all the best fantasy writers, she manages to invest even her wildest imaginings with the ring of truth." The Daily Telegraph

"Written with passion and compassion, Anderson's talent as a weaver of magic and creator of evocative landscapes is growing with each book." - The Daily Mail

"Happily, there is no second book syndrome here, in a sparkling adventure that is even better than her debut." The Bookseller

"The Girl Who Speaks Bear feels timeless and urgent, full of tenderly dispensed lessons about belonging, home, and wildness. A wondrous tale that will win readers for generations to come" - Kiran Milwood-Hargrave

"I adore The Girl Who Speaks Bear. Sophie Anderson has done it again!" - Robin Stevens

"I loved this book! Sublime storytelling, the perfect landscape and Mousetrap (a character to rival Reepicheep)." - Hilary McKay

"Grounded in ancient fairytales that feel special and true, and glistening with the very real magic of love and belonging, this is a gem of a story. Beautiful from start to finish." - Cat Doyle

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