Thirteen-year-old Chirp knows deep inside that it is not a good idea to mess with old Mr. Beans, Miss Sally's dancing bear. But Mugsy, his only friend, really got into this idea of playing Indian. Chirp endures Mugsy's bullying ways; Mugsy's companionship is better than life with Chirp's foster father. What Chirp really wants is to live with Uncle Frank in the Idaho backcountry. Until that becomes possible, he just will have to go along with Mugsy's games, such as poking Mr. Beans with a stick to count coup. Too bad Mr. Beans reacts and scratches Mugsy's arm. That big crybaby raises such a fuss that the sheriff plans to shoot Mr. Beans. With no solid strategy beyond fleeing, Chirp springs Mr. Beans from his cage, and the two take off, just steps ahead of the sheriff and his men. Chirp's only thought is to get out of Oregon and travel to Uncle Frank, but a lot lies between them. During their journey, as Chirp and Mr. Beans develop a mutual trust, Chirp also grows comfortable with his Native American heritage. The Pacific Northwest descriptions are an asset to this novel. There is enough solid adventure and creative thinking to hold the reader, but there is little sense of the 1940s setting. The time line of Chirp's trek from Oregon to Idaho is not delineated strongly. The length and style make Mr. Beans suitable for reluctant readers and middle school readers who are not yet fully into Paulsen or Hobbs. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Boyds Mills, 160p, . Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Roxy Ekstrom SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Gr 6-8-New in a small Oregon town and the only Native American child there, Chirp reluctantly agrees to participate in a prank instigated by his only friend and sometimes tormentor, involving a local dancer's pet grizzly bear. The bear, Mr. Beans, ends up slightly injuring Mugsy (in self-defense) and the town decides that the animal must be destroyed. Chirp pities him and engineers an escape during which the bear is hurt. They hide out until the animal can travel, and then head for the Idaho wilderness where Chirp's uncle lives. The journey unfolds with adventure after adventure as the two narrowly escape being captured. The story is driven by the action, and there's not a lot of detail, except for the descriptions of the country, which reflect the author's obvious love of the land and give this story a strong sense of place. The characters are not fully developed but are believable enough to sustain sympathy and interest throughout. Some readers might be offended by the use of the word "Indian" used throughout but the novel takes place in the 1940s, and its use is more appropriate and authentic for that time period. While not a must-have, the book will fill a need where nonstop adventure is in high demand.-Arwen Marshall, formerly at New York Public Library Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.