Ghost of Spirit Bear
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Ghost of Spirit Bear

4.4 68
by Ben Mikaelsen

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Alone in the wilderness, Cole found peace. But he’s not alone anymore.

Cole Matthews used to be a violent kid, but a year in exile on a remote Alaskan island has a way of changing your perspective. After being mauled by a Spirit Bear, Cole started to heal. He even invited his victim, Peter Driscal, to join him on the island and they became friends.

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Alone in the wilderness, Cole found peace. But he’s not alone anymore.

Cole Matthews used to be a violent kid, but a year in exile on a remote Alaskan island has a way of changing your perspective. After being mauled by a Spirit Bear, Cole started to heal. He even invited his victim, Peter Driscal, to join him on the island and they became friends.

But now their time in exil is over, and Cole and Peter are heading back to the one place they’re not sure they can handle: high school. Gangs and violence haunt the hallways, and Peter’s limp and speech impediment make him a natural target. In a school where hate and tension are getting close to the boiling point, the monster of rage hibernating inside Cole begins to stir.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
In Touching Spirit Bear, Cole was exiled to a remote Alaskan island for a year after beating up a boy named Peter. In this sequel, Cole must face a different survival challenge: high school back in Minneapolis, with its bullies and gangs. Now 17 and on probation, Cole must learn to control his anger and his tendency to lash out, or he'll go to jail. But when some would-be tough guys pick on Peter, who is now a close friend of Cole's, Cole reacts violently and ends up in the principal's office. He realizes that changing himself is only part of the answer: he must also work to change the culture around him. He and Peter come to the aid of a homeless man, and Cole unexpectedly finds himself in a leadership position at school, lobbying to have the school's mascot changed from a snarling bulldog to a Spirit Bear to help create a new school atmosphere free of fear and intimidation. While the plot of Touching Spirit Bear is summarized at the beginning, this sequel will work best for those who have already read that book. Gripping and fast moving, both novels will appeal to boys especially and to reluctant readers, and they provide an excellent opportunity to discuss bullying and its consequences as well as anger management. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10

Mikaelsen's sequel to Touching Spirit Bear (HarperCollins, 2001), the much-lauded novel exploring the psychology and community dynamics of bullying, is likely to draw a split decision among potential audiences. While teachers and counselors may find it to be an inspiring, timely, and instructive piece of bibliotherapy, street-smart students might find it improbable, pat, and didactic. The story picks up with newly reformed bully Cole Matthews and the boy he once beat mercilessly, Peter Driscal, returning to the demoralizing realities of their beleaguered urban high school after having spent extended therapeutic time exploring their inner lives on a remote Alaskan Island. While Cole had realized genuine peace and personal insight in exile, he can sense his old rage beginning to resurface when Peter, whom he now considers his best friend, becomes the target of gang attacks. Ultimately, in the wake of the suicide of a bullied classmate, Cole decides that the only real hope for changing the self-destructive attitudes and behaviors in his high school is to appeal to his principal to let him lead an attempt to heal its overall spirit using some of the same techniques his Tlingit mentor, Garvey, had employed with him. She does agree, of course, as obstacles tend to topple just a bit too easily in this overly whitewashed sequel.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Now for a Very Special Episode of Spirit Bear... Seventeen-year-old Cole has completed his year of exile on a remote Alaskan island, learning to control the violent anger that was leading him on the path to jail. But now he has to return to his Minneapolis high school and cope with bullying, gangs and the apathy of teens and adults alike. When tragedy galvanizes the student body to seek change, Cole becomes the unlikely leader of a movement to replace the school mascot, a snarling bulldog, with a Spirit Bear, the symbol of inner strength. Despite the creepy title, this slim follow-up to Touching Spirit Bear (2001) reads like a throwback to the archetypal YA "problem novel." Mikaelson certainly means well, wisely avoiding simplistic solutions, and the hefty dollops of symbolism and mystical allusions, along with an unrealistically upbeat denouement, may offer comfort to some troubled youngsters; but the more sophisticated (or jaded) will be turned off by the heavy-handed earnestness. (Fiction. 11 & up)
ALA Booklist
“Mikaelsen provides a seamless transition between the two stories, as well as a highly satisfying resolution, and readers will find that, despite the new setting, this novel is just as much a survival story as its predecessor.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ghost of Spirit Bear

Chapter One

(Two weeks later)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Walking to school the first morning was strange and different. On the island, Cole had hiked the rocky path to the pond each morning at daybreak. Around him had been the sounds of seagulls calling, the screech of owls, and twigs snapping in the underbrush. The pungent smell of pine trees, salt water, and rotting seaweed had filled the air. Sometimes the chuffing sound of killer whales broke the stillness as they breached. And always Cole had felt the hidden eyes of the Spirit Bear calmly watching him from deep in the trees.

Here, walking on a smooth sidewalk in the city, Cole smelled car exhaust. He heard dogs barking, a garbage truck loading trash, and the traffic going by. A siren screamed in the distance. He missed the Spirit Bear. The city felt like some foreign planet. Cole wanted to cover his ears and close his eyes to it all. He didn't fit into this world.

Cole noticed his reflection in the window of a parked car as he walked. He had grown taller and thinner on the island. His skin was weathered and rough, and his muscles had become strong and lean. His old clothes no longer fit him, but he felt uncomfortable in his new ones.

As he neared the school, Cole hugged his injured right arm against his waist and tried not to limp. If he let the arm hang, it swung awkwardly because of the bone and muscle damage. He dared not let his injuries show. Around the bullies, he'd be like a wounded rabbit with wolves.

Cole blinked back his feelings of fear and frustration. On the island he had learned to control his emotions. He had learnedfrom Garvey and another Tlingit elder, Edwin, that he could never fully get rid of anger because it was a memory. But he had also learned to focus on the good. A good day wasn't a day without clouds but rather a day when one focused on finding the sunlight behind the clouds.

Cole wondered if he could keep that same focus back here in the city. The very moment he stepped onto the plane heading for Minneapolis that concern had begun eating at his gut. What would happen when the island was simply a memory and the Spirit Bear was only a ghost from his past? What would happen when he returned to the bullies and gangs? The students would remember only the old angry Cole who once prowled the hallways looking for fights. And maybe that old angry Cole still existed, a monster who would one day return without warning.

As he approached the school, the knot tightened in Cole's throat and kept him from swallowing. A statue of the Minneapolis Central bulldog mascot seemed to snarl at him from its familiar pedestal on the front lawn. The dog had one leg broken off and one ear missing. Cole remembered spraying graffiti on the marble pedestal himself. Now it was tagged with gang symbols, some that Cole no longer recognized. Looking at the ratty bulldog made his memory of the proud and magical white Spirit Bear seem like a distant dream.

Groups of kids hung around outside the school, shoving and slapping at one another and shouting names. Most wore baggy pants and T-shirts. Some wore bandannas or jackets with gang colors. Already candy wrappers and soda cans littered the lawn.

Cole recognized some of the kids, but they seemed like strangers. The cliques and gangs had already begun gathering: the preppies, the jocks, the Goths, the red groups and blue groups, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and a dozen more. Each group eyed the others with disdain and distrust.

Cole felt like he was outside a fishbowl looking in. None of it made sense anymore. He had been fifteen and in tenth grade when he had beaten up Peter. Now he was coming back at seventeen but only starting eleventh grade because of the classes he'd missed. He felt a lifetime older.

Cole noticed one plain-looking white girl with long straight brown hair approaching the school.

"Hey, slut!" shouted a girl sitting on the steps near the door.

The girl kept walking, looking down at the sidewalk.

"Look who's calling who a slut!" shouted one of the jocks.

"Shut up, jack—!" the girl yelled back.

"Shut up yourself, b—!" the boy answered.

Suddenly Cole wanted to scream, Stop it! Everybody just shut up! Garvey's words came back to him: "Diminish anything around you and you diminish yourself." Did these kids know they were destroying themselves with every word?

Students who recognized Cole turned and stared openly. His pulse quickened and his face warmed when he heard their whispers. In the past, he would have challenged any kid who dared to stare. Now he drew in a deep breath and lowered his eyes, afraid of what he might do if confronted.

A familiar voice interrupted Cole's thoughts. "Hey, you," Peter called, hurrying over in his stumbling gait. "H-h-how are ya?"

"Good. How are you doing?"

The smile left Peter's face. "Two kids have called me a retard already. I wish we were still on the island. I want to go back and soak in the pond."

Cole studied his friend's troubled face. The beating and the brain injury had left Peter superemotional. Sometimes he laughed and cried at the same time. Cole remembered Peter's first nights on the island, waking up screaming as if he were still being attacked. With time, his fears had calmed, but Cole worried that those haunted thoughts would return here in the city.

Cole knew he was responsible for Peter's injuries, but he also knew he had helped him. After Peter attempted suicide the second time, Cole had suggested that the fearful boy visit the island. He wanted to show Peter that the monster he feared no longer existed.

At first, Peter's parents had refused, but in desperation they finally agreed under the condition that Garvey accompany the two boys to help protect their son.

Ghost of Spirit Bear. Copyright © by Ben Mikaelsen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ben Mikaelsen is the winner of the International Reading Association Award and the Western Writers of America Spur Award. His novels have been nominated for and won many state reader's choice awards. These novels include Red Midnight, Rescue Josh McGuire, Sparrow Hawk Red, Stranded, Countdown, Petey, and Tree Girl. Ben's articles and photos appear in numerous magazines around the world. Ben lives near Bozeman, Montana, with his 700-pound black bear, Buffy.

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