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Rescuers arrive to save Cole's life, but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that is the start of Cole's long journey to accepting responsibility for his life and saving his soul.
This gripping, graphic survival story from an award-winning writer paints an unsparing picture of one violent teen and offers a poignant testimony to the power of pain that can destroy and may also heal.
About the Author:
Ben Mikaelsen is the author of a number of award-winning books for young readers, including Rescue Josh McGuire, Sparrow Hawk Red, and most revently, Petey. He lives in Montana with his wife and a 650-pound bear.
After his anger erupts into violence, Cole, in order to avoid going to prison, agrees to participate in a sentencing alternative based on the native American Circle Justice, and he is sent to a remote Alaskan Island where an encounter with a huge Spirit Bear changes his life.
Cole Matthews knelt defiantly in the bow of the aluminum skiff as he faced forward into a cold September wind. Worn steel handcuffs bit at his wrists each time the small craft slapped into another wave. Overhead, a gray-matted sky hung like a bad omen. Cole strained at the cuffs even though he had agreed to wear them until he was freed on the island to begin his banishment. Agreeing to spend a whole year alone in Southeast Alaska had been his only way of avoiding a jail cell in Minneapolis.
Two men accompanied Cole on this final leg of his journey. In the middle sat Garvey, the gravelly-voiced, wisecracking Indian parole officer from Minneapolis. Garvey said he was a Tungit Indian, pronouncing Tungit proudly with a cucking of his tongue as if saying "Kungkit." He was built like a bulldog with lazy eyes. Cole didn't trust Garvey. He didn't trust anyone who wasn't afraid of him. Garvey pretended to be a friend, but Cole knew he was nothing more than a paid baby-sitter. This week his job was escorting a violent juvenile offender first from Minneapolis to Seattle, then to Ketchikan, Alaska, where they boarded a big silver floatplane into the Tlingit village of Drake. Now they were headed for some island in the middle of nowhere.
In the rear of the skiff sat Edwin, a quiet, potbellied Tlingit elder who had helped arrange Cole's banishment. He steered the boat casually, a faded blue T-shirt and baggy jeans his only protection against the wind. Deep-set eyes made it hard to tell what Edwin was thinking. He stared forward with a steely patience, like a wolf waiting. Cole didn't trust him either.
It was Edwin who had built the shelter andmade all the preparations on the island where Cole was to stay. When he first met Edwin in Drake, the gruff elder took one look and pointed a finger at him. "Go put your clothes on inside out," he ordered.
"Get real, old man," Cole answered.
"You'll wear them reversed for the first two weeks of your banishment to show humility and shame," Edwin said, his voice hard as stone. Then he turned and shuffled up the dock toward his old rusty pickup.
Cole hesitated, eyeing the departing elder.
"Just do it," Garvey said.
Still standing on the dock in front of everyone, Cole smirked as he undressed. He refused to turn his back as he slowly pulled each piece inside out-even his underwear.
Villagers watched from the shore until he finished changing.
Bracing himself now against the heavy seas, Cole held that same smirk. His blue jeans, heavy wool shirt, and rain jacket chafed his skin, but it didn't matter. He would have worn a cowbell. around his neck if it had meant avoiding jail. He wasn't a Tlingit Indian. He was an innocent-looking, baby-faced fifteen-year-old from Minneapolis who had been in trouble with the law half his life. Everyone thought he felt sorry for what he had done, and going to this island was his way of making things right.
Nothing could be further from the truth. To Cole, this was just another big game. With salt air biting at his face, he turned and glanced at Edwin. The elder eyed him back with a dull stare. Anger welled up inside Cole. He hated that stupid stare. Pretending to aim toward the waves, he spit so the wind would catch the thick saliva and carry it back.
The spit caught Edwin squarely and dragged across his faded shirt. Edwin casually lifted an oily rag from the bottom of the skiff and wiped away the slime, then tossed the rag back under his seat and again fixed his eyes on Cole.
Cole feipped surprise as if he had made a horrible mistake, then twisted at the handcuffs again. What was this old guy's problem anyway'? The elder acted fearless, but he had to be afraid of something. Everyone in the world was afraid of something.
Cole thought back to all the people at home who had tried to help him over the years. He hated their fake concern. They didn't really care what happened to him. They were gutless--he could see it in their eyes. They were afraid, glad to be rid of him. They pretended to help only because they didn't know what else to do.
For years, "help" had meant sending him to drug counseling and anger therapy sessions. Every few months, Cole found himself being referred to someone else. He discovered early on that "being referred" was the adult term for passing the buck. Already he had seen the inside of a dozen police stations, been through as many counselors, a psychologist, several detention centers, and two residential treatment centers.
Each time he got into trouble, he was warned to shape up because this was his last chance. Even the day he left for the island, several of those who gathered to see him off, including his parents, had warned him, "Don't screw up. This is your last chance." Cole braced himself for the next big wave. Whatever happened, he could always count on having one more last chance.
Not that it really mattered. He had no intention of ever honoring the contract he agreed to during the Circle justice meetings. As soon as they left him alone, this silly game would end. Circle justice was a bunch of bull. They were crazy if they thought he was going to spend a whole year of his life like some animal, trapped on a remote Alaskan island.
Cole twisted at the handcuffs again. Last year at this time, he had never even heard of Circle justice-he hadn't heard of it until his latest arrest for breaking into a hard ware store. After robbing the place, he had totally trashed it.
The police might not have caught him, but after a week passed, he bragged about the break-in at school. When someone ratted on him, the police questioned Cole. He denied the break-in, of course, and then he beat up the boy who had turned him in...
Posted May 3, 2010
Touching Spirit Bear is truley an inspiring book. What the author is trying to get across in this awesome book is that even though you may feel abondened and as if know one loves you, the author is saying no there is someone that is there that cares for you. The story takes place in Minniapolis,Minnesota but the action takes place on a remote island in Alaska. The only reason I say the action takes place there is because that is where the main charcter Cole Mathews, a young man whose life has been miserable ever since his father would beat him senceless while his mother would simply do nothing and drink away her problems,has an encounter with a mistacle bear. He is sent off to this island for beating up a classmate from school. The motive, he snitched on cole and so cole beats him up bad. I believe this book is best for a young audience because they can relate more to this beacuse they seem to go through problems such as the one portreyd in this book. This book fulfills its purpose by having coles angry heart turned to a soft loving heart. I loved this book from beging to end because i could relly relate to what cole sometimes went through while i was growing up. I totally agree with the message the author gave which is to control your anger with all people. What I liked most was when cole and the person he hurt so bad made up and forgave eachother. This author did an awesome job in my opinion because i really enjoyed this book. Young people I recommend this book I know you will love it just as I did.
23 out of 25 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I was told to buy and read this book as part of my summer reading list for pre-Ap English 1, I'm in 9th grade and I absolutley loved this book, at first I read the book expecting the same as any other book, Only doing it for a grade but as I got further into the book I began to enjoy reading it. This book is amazing, touching, thrilling, beautiful, heart-warming and a book that WILL keep you reading, needless to say I now read the book everytime I get bored or just need something to do, I suggest the every parent get's this book for their child and vise-versa...
21 out of 21 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2012
Im reading this book right now in school and in chapter 14it got me so engaged into the book i reccomend this book
15 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2012
I havent finished reading it but im almost done. I have to read it for school. I absolutely hate it! Cole is such a dumb character with mood swings! Who learn to love life after nearly dieing from an attach of a fake mystic bear and then hate life again!!!! I would have put it down ages ago if i didnt need it for school! :(
14 out of 42 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2012
In 4th grade my teacher read this to my class. Some parts where disturbing but the book is really good. I would read this book over and over and over again. If you are looking for a good book to read, with awesome details. Read it.
14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2012
Posted February 27, 2012
This book was great! I read it for a reading competition and loved it. The author could really paint a picture in your mind. I could see Cole on the island so clearly!
12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2011
I also had to read Touching Spirit Bear for our summmer reading. I LOVE to read and was thrilled when i got this book. I heard so many things about it from my Language Arts teacher. At first, it took a minute to grasp what was going. But as the story goes on and I got more of a understanding of where he was and how and why he got there, it became more and more exciting. The end of the book ends very very wonderful. Anyone who reads this will definetly be satisfied with the ending. The story is beautifully written. Now, you might think, "how is a story about a violent teen beautiful?" This story really grasp nature and beauty and really deepens into the inner soul. The discription of scenes, thoughts, and feelings all come together as one. Cole's change is astonishing and even gave me a peacful state of mind and the will to change myself. It truley will give a deeper understanding of life. If you ever get the chance to read this, please, read it all the way through. This is a story of a confused teen who changes in the soul and spirit because of one mythical Spirit Bear.
11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 17, 2011
Posted September 28, 2010
I thought that Touching spirit bear was an amazing book. It covered everything, never left loose ends. It really taught me how much people can change with dedication and good advice. Gary Paulsen fans will love Touching spirit bear its a story of revival and dedication set in a perfect place. I could tell that Ben Mikaelson thought this story through, beginning to end. You have to read this book it will open your eyes and teach you. I hope you will like it as much as i have.
9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2012
Posted April 10, 2012
Posted August 18, 2011
Posted September 20, 2002
Posted June 23, 2013
Touching spirit is amazing!Great book for finding that "reason to live":) very touching and inspiring, made my cry a little, just a little:) only two words of advice though, READ IT!
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2012
This book is freaking amazing! My teacher read it for read aloud in class and now we are on the second book. Even though it can be very gory because the author writes this book so discriptive. For all the people that enjoyed this book; read ghost of spirit bear because it is just as good as the first. I loved this book because it doesn't exactly have a happy ending even though it seems like it. You still have yet to go. What happens to peter and cole after the island? Find out in gohst of spirit bear.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Touching Spirit Bear is one of the best books I¿ve read so far in my life. This book involves a 15 year old, whose name is Cole Matthews, who has been in trouble wit the law half his life. His latest crime has been the worst of all. Cole had attacked Peter; another student at his school. Peter was not only scarred physically but he had been scarred mentally. Peter even comes to a point where he wants to do physical harm to himself.<BR/> To help Cole control his anger a parole officer came up with the idea of putting Cole in a program called ¿Circle Justice¿. This program was a healing form of justice used by native cultures thousands of years ago.<BR/> I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read books with lessons and action because it is very well detailed. The biggest reason I like this book is because it shows how someone can make drastic changes after something bad happens to them. Ben Mikaelsen makes a lot of the important events very vivid and it feels as if there was a movie in your head.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 11, 2008
i thought that this book was very good. although some of the characters were hard to follow. the auther did a great job. one of my favorite parts was after he was attacked by the bear and what he had to do to survive and realize their was a purpose in life for him. i still dont understand how rolling the stone up the hill everyday helped him in reality but it was still a great book.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2013
This book was the single worst book I have ever been subjected to. I was forced to read it for seventh grade, and I would have burned it were it not necessary for the school year. I am in eighth grade now, as it took a year to cope with the utter shock I felt from reading this garbage. It starts with an incredibly unrealistic main character Cole, who is so unbelievably violent he gives another kid brain damage by beating him up. He is subsequently arrested, and given the choice between being tried as an adult and going to prison or going through some tacky Native American "healing justice". Let's be honest here, who in their right minds would pick prison over a plain old year on an island? So, obviously, Cole goes with the island option, and has to deal with the preparation thing by BSing his way through some Native American council thing and dealing with his hippie representative. When he finishes faking his way through that, he goes to the island, and do you know what the first thing he did was? He burnt all of his supplies except some rusty knife in some sort of "angst-release" or something. Great idea, kiddo. Then, he decides he is man enough to try and take down a huge white bear. Not-so-surprisingly, he gets mauled in an also unrealistic attack. Then, Mister Mikaelsen decides to dedicate nearly a page and a half to a description of Cole eating a mouse alive. Everything up to this point is just bad. Everything past this, however, is mind-numbingly awful. Cole then lies there having his inner hippie give a cheesy monologue of nature, and then the bear that nearly killed him comes over to him and sniffs him or something, and Cole pets it and forgives it for horrendously maiming him. Just like that. Cole is then found and take back to the "Circle Justice" council, where they go on and on about how unhappy they are. But, apparently, Cole had an epiphany while his hippie was delivering it's speech, and now Cole wants to become friends with Peter, the kid he gave brain damage. Wow. I won't go any further as to not spoil the ending for those of you who actually want to read this book. And all of that was also only on the plot, the writing was just generally mediocre as well. Overall, I absolutely loathed this book and I would've been much happier without reading it. It was unrealistic, cheesy, and just plain bad in my opinion. Ben Mikaelsen, I have no idea what you were thinking. I give this book as little stars as possible, and I hope you won't have to go through the same pain I did when I read this.
5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.