Author: Lewis, Gill
In Laos, twelve-year-old Tam must work at a bear farm where bears are cruelly caged and milked for their bile, but when a familiar cub is brought to the farm, Tam will do anything to free both the cub, and himself.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.20
Points: 8.0 Quiz: 181740
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 3.30
Points: 13.0 Quiz: 64921
Kirkus Reviews (+) (12/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (06/15)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/15/2015 Tam and his family have always lived in the mountains of Laos, but the Laotian government plans to build a road through their village, so they’ve been relocated to the lowlands with the promise of school, jobs, and electricity. The reality is not so rosy: their new village is on land containing 40-year-old unexploded cluster bombs, one of which kills Tam’s father. With no one to support his family, Tam is sent to work on a bear farm, where bears are kept in small cages and “milked” of their valuable bile. Tam is aghast, and when his sadistic boss buys a sickly cub, Tam takes it upon himself to protect the moon bear, who he names Sôok Díi. Tam is torn between earning money to support his family and protecting the bears, which he hopes to return to their natural habitat. Tam’s accessible first-person narrative offers an illuminating, gritty glimpse into an industry that’s likely foreign to most American readers as well as insight into his powerful determination, bravery, and cheerworthy passion. Illustrations not seen. - Copyright 2015 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 06/01/2015 To help his family after his father’s death and the military removal of their Laotian villages, twelve-year-old Tam takes a job in the city. He’s caretaker at a bear farm run by the unpleasant Doctor, who “milks” the bears’ gallbladders for valuable bile sold as medicine, a process that repulses Tam almost as much as the horrible conditions in which the bears are kept. When the Doctor buys an ailing moon bear cub named So?ok-dìi, Tam recognizes the cub as one he once met in the mountains, and he begins secretly giving it extra food and care. Of course, So?ok-dìi is eventually “milked” as well, and when Tam realizes the process has harmed the bear, he plans their getaway. Despite some tense moments, events take a turn for the happier as a bear sanctuary is established, the over-logged mountains begin to be replanted, and So?ok-dìi finally seems to be recovering. The tidily optimistic ending is a little contrived, but the story itself is a riveting one, and Tam’s rock-and-a-hard place status is credibly conveyed. Animal lovers will need a bit of perseverance to get past the animal abuse, but they can rest assured that the vicious Doctor will get an appropriate comeuppance. Tam’s tale provides plenty of food for thought and substance for discussion, from the bears’ role in Asian medicine, to the militaristic undertones of the relationship between the fearful citizens and the soldiers. The stylistic flatness of the grayscale digital illustrations leaves them somewhat stiff, so they do little to enhance the lively text. Hand this to fans of Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan (BCCB 2/12). JH - Copyright 2015 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.