Touching Spirit Bear

Touching Spirit Bear

by Ben Mikaelsen


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In his Napra Nautilus Award-winning novel Touching Spirit Bear, author Ben Mikaelson delivers a poignant coming-of-age story of a boy who must overcome the effects that violence has had on his life.

After severely injuring Peter Driscal in an empty parking lot, mischief-maker Cole Matthews is in major trouble. But instead of jail time, Cole is given another option: attend Circle Justice, an alternative program that sends juvenile offenders to a remote Alaskan Island to focus on changing their ways. Desperate to avoid prison, Cole fakes humility and agrees to go.

While there, Cole is mauled by a mysterious white bear and left for dead. Thoughts of his abusive parents, helpless Peter, and his own anger cause him to examine his actions and seek redemption—from the spirit bear that attacked him, from his victims, and from himself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060734008
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/04/2005
Series: Spirit Bear , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 210,617
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Touching Spirit Bear Chapter One

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 and made 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...

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

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Touching Spirit Bear 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 619 reviews.
Sprited-Upp More than 1 year ago
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... Taryn Danielle
READ-O-LOTS More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im reading this book right now in school and in chapter 14it got me so engaged into the book i reccomend this book
keeley8 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever I read it last year in sixth grade
Anmeii More than 1 year ago
Great descriptions, great message. This is a book good for kids and adults.
colemanstudent-emb More than 1 year ago
its my fourth time reading the book and im not much of a reader could not put it down.
SanchezGomez12345 More than 1 year ago
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.
colemanstudent-lrh More than 1 year ago
This was a great story of a young mans passage to adulthood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"Touching Spirit Bear" is a very good book suitable for kids of all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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! :)))))
Cesariscool More than 1 year ago
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.
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.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
Dmonkey More than 1 year ago
I think that this book is good but i think that It's a little graphic but that's kind of good because the author is really descriptive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a seventh-grade reading/language arts teacher who is teaching this book. I had no say in the matter, unfortunately, and I would never have chosen to teach it. It is painfully dull to read with very little action to move the story along. It is riddled with one flashback after another at the beginning of the novel, but it seems forced. In fact, most of the book seems forced. In addition, there are a few questionable scenes involving two grown men and a fifteen-year-old boy, in particular, a scene where the one man swims nude with the boy. Lastly, it is poorly written. The author does not know how to correctly punctuate a compound sentence nor does he know a comma is used to separate two adjectives when describing something. I would avoid this book at all costs—you will dread teaching it, and your students will hate it. This may very well be the worst book I have ever read. It certainly is the worst book I have ever taught.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good, intence and disturbing in so areas. Lb :)*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!!! Clole is a trobled boy. He has stolling many things in his life, and has beaten many people. He blames everone but him self. His father had beaten himto wear he cant even hide the bruses. His mom to drunk to defend her son.One day he stoll from a store. The next day,cops arive and guestion him. He latter finds out that a smart boy, alex, had sniched. After school he cornered alex and smashed his head into a side walk making sure to spite on him. Alex now has perminet brain damage. Cole gets sent to a remote iland in alaska. In one year, he sees life anew. Alex comes to the same iland. As a test to see if cole has changed. When there left alone he aplagises. Alex then beats cole to a polp. Then they start to become friends. I love this book so much!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, his name is peter not alex...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
keatkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A convincing portrayal of an abused, 15 year old boy who learns to control his deep anger and inner demons, by fulfilling the contract prescribed by an aboriginal Circle Justice. Teen readers will be immediately drawn to the realism of Cole's difficult and dangerous journey, to self-realization and forgiveness. Aboriginal beliefs, rituals, and practises are seamlessly woven throughout the narrative, giving the reader greater insight into the aboriginal perspective on both judicial and environmental issues. A worthy choice for a class read-aloud or a literature circle study.