A powerful story about a boy's mystical experience and the gift he brings back to his people

Will Hobbs, well known for his older fiction on Western and Native American themes, offers his first picture book based on a story drawn from Ute lore and a story of primary importance in two of his novels for older readers. It is springtime, and Short Tail and his people are concerned that they have not yet seen the Great Bear. Has he survived the winter? Is he still sleeping? Short ...

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A powerful story about a boy's mystical experience and the gift he brings back to his people

Will Hobbs, well known for his older fiction on Western and Native American themes, offers his first picture book based on a story drawn from Ute lore and a story of primary importance in two of his novels for older readers. It is springtime, and Short Tail and his people are concerned that they have not yet seen the Great Bear. Has he survived the winter? Is he still sleeping? Short Tail decides to go up on the mountain to see, and later in a magical dream of his own, he does find the Great Bear and wakes him. In gratitude the Great Bear takes him to where the other bears are performing their dance to celebrate the end of winter, a majestic dance that they teach him and that he takes back to teach his people. Jill Kastner's stunning paintings depict not only the rugged terrain in which the story takes place, but the subtle power of a ritual performed to this day.

When Short Tail climbs the mountain to find the Great Bear, he tires, falls asleep, and slips into a dream in which the Great One reveals a marvelous secret.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
Native American myth about the great bears is interwoven with this story of a young Ute boy who searches in the mountains for the bear who fails to appear in the spring. When the young Indian boy wakens the bear from his long winter sleep, the bear leads the boy to where the bears live. He watches as the bears perform a dance in honor of spring's arrival. When the boy returns to his tribe, he tells the story of the great bear dance. The Indians create their own bear dance in honor of the bear, a powerful symbol of Native American cultures. Muted paintings of bears and native Americans add to the dream-like quality of the story.
Children's Literature - Lisa Phillips
Short Tail, a Ute boy, becomes concerned when the Great Bear fails to come out of the mountains when springtime arrives. Fearing the bear will starve if he does not wake up, Short Tail decides to climb the mountains in search of him. High on the mountain, Short Tail becomes very tired and falls asleep and dreams. In his dream, Short Tail finds the bear asleep in his den so he wakes him up and explains how concerned everyone is for the bear. The Great Bear, aware of how respectful the boy is, decides to help him and invites him to go see a secret. He takes Short Tail to the place where all the other bears are performing a dance to celebrate the end of winter. Short Tail is invited to dance and when it is over, he is told to go back to his people and show them how to do the bears' dance. When the boy woke, he returned to his people and told them about his dream. From then on, the people performed this dance to celebrate the end of winter and the awakening of the bears. The author, Will Hobbs, attended the Native American Ute Bear Dance and was so moved by the simplicity and power of this ancient rite of spring, that he was inspired to write Beardream. It is based upon a version of the story common among the Utes of Colorado and Utah.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Hobbs explores the relationship between a young boy and a bear in his first picture book, a theme he has pursued in his novels for older children. In early spring, Short Tail, a young Ute, is concerned because no one has seen the Great Bear. He is worried that the animal will starve and goes to find him. But the boy tires and sleeps; in a dream he finds the Great Bear and wakes him. The creature appreciates Short Tail's respect and shares with him the annual bear dance, which celebrates the end of winter. The child in turn teaches the dance to his people. This layered tale, which is based on a Ute story, is respectfully told, but it may be confusing for readers, and the art doesn't clarify matters. Kastner's oils are often impressive; dark, soft-edged, with large figures set against mountain landscapes. In several of the dream spreads, images of the dreamer bear or human are incorporated into the landscape, but they are not set far enough apart. In some scenes it's not obvious which character is Short Tail. The primary focus of the story is also not clear: Is it the survival of the Great Bear, Short Tail's relationship with it, the end of winter, Short Tail's bravery, or the teaching of the danceor all of the above. Discussion will be helpful.Leda Schubert, Vermont Department of Education, Montpelier
Kirkus Reviews
From novelist Hobbs (Beardance, 1993, etc.), a picture book that continues his examination of the relationship between the bear and the Ute peopleā€”a simple, satisfying story that explores the places where the turn of the seasons and the dreamtime coexist.

Short Tail notices that the Great Bear has not yet wakened, but spring has come and wildflowers fill the land. He searches for the bear's cave, and shouts, "Wake up, Grandfather!" to bring him around. In gratitude, the bear shows the boy the dance that celebrates the end of winter. Short Tail takes the dance back to the Ute. Kastner's rich, warm oils capture the power of the bears, the landscape, and the people, while her ragged edges fashion blurs between dreams and reality just as the story does. A nice take on the links between the natural and spiritual worlds.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689319730
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition description: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.37 (w) x 12.32 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Hobbs is the award-winning author of many popular adventure stories for young readers, including Bearstone and Beardance. His picture book, Beardream, illustrated by Jill Kastner, is a companion to these novels. Seven of his novels have been chosen by the American Library Association as Best Books for Young Adults. A graduate of Stanford University and former language arts teacher, he lives in Durango, Colorado, with his wife, Jean. Longtime backpackers and river runners, they have spent many years exploring the mountain and canyon settings of Will's stories.
To learn more about the author and his books, visit Will's Web site at

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