Touching Spirit Bear

author: Ben Mikaelsen

by juliana nowak


Cole was a teenager with some anger issues. He didn't have a very good childhood; his father abused him and his mother just stood by and did nothing. He had a reputation as a bully, and the kids at school were scared of him. One day. he beat up a boy named Peter Driscal. After that, Peter was never really the same. He was depressed and angry...just not himself. Cole was sent to a juvenile detention center because this was not the first time he got in trouble.

A man named Garvey came to talk to him. Garvey told him that he could join something called "Circle Justice", CJ was a program that let kids do some kind of penance instead of going to jail. Garvey told Cole he was a candidate for this, but he had to be willing to change. Cole knew he wasn't going to change, but he pretended he would so he wouldn't have to be locked up in a cell.

Cole was sent to an island by himself. He had to survive and (hopefully) become a better person. Instead, Cole tried to escape but was attacked by a Spirit Bear, a rare white bear that was supposedly special. Garvey found Cole mangled and dying. Cole lived and, better yet, learned his lesson.

Although Cole changed, nobody believed him. He decided to go back to the island and redo Circle Justice to prove that he was better. Garvey and a man named Edwin stayed with him for a little while. Edwin showed Cole ways to help forget his anger, like soaking in the pond and carrying the ancestor rock. Peter ended up going out to the island, and forgave Cole. Together they lived, survived and became better people.


1. at.oow: this symbolizes Garvey's trust in Cole. When he was given the at.oow, Cole was told to take care of it. That was the first time Cole had really been trusted with something, and it provided him shelter, warmth, and protection throughout the book.

2. baby whale: during Cole's first time on the island, he spotted a baby whale and its mother. This made him sad because the mother was providing her baby love, care, and protection; things Cole never got from his mother.

3. pond: when Cole went back to the island Edwin brought him to a pond. Cole had to bathe in it every day. His anger would never be gone, but this exercise would supposedly lessen it and help Cole continue becoming a better person.

4. ancestor rock: Edwin also had Cole carry a rock up a hill every day. This "ancestor rock" symbolized that Cole's ancestors understood that life wasn't easy and they would always be with him. At the top of the hill, the rock became Cole's anger. He would roll it down the hill, releasing him from the pain of his past.

5. hot dog: one night at dinner with Garvey and Edwin, Cole was taught how to make a feast out of a hot dog. This symbolized that life is what you make of it. Pretend life is the hot dog; if you quickly cook it and just go through the motions, it is just an average, plain hot dog. But, if you take your time and add delicious toppings, it will be so much better.

"anger is a memory never forgotten."

Cole tells Edwin he is still angry, but Edwin tells him that he will always be angry. This is a really good life lesson because you can't just throw away your anger like you can throw away a piece of paper. You can ignore it and still be a good person, but your anger will always be with you during your long journey through life.

"i am poem"

I am Cole Mathews
I am angry but healed
I wonder if i willl be a successful person
I hear wind blowing around me
I see my sprit bear, watching me from a distance
I want to lead a happy life
I am angry but healed

I pretend that i am always in a happy place, even if i'm not
I feel better as a person
I touch my future
I worry that something will happen to those i love
I cry about nothing at all
I am angry but healed

I understand that we all have a purpose
I say that we always need to trust others
I dream that i will always be a good person
I try to work hard
I hope i will always do my best
I am angry but healed