Review of The Water Bears

The Water Bears
by Kim Baker
Intermediate    Lamb/Random    264 pp.    g
4/20    978-1-9848-5220-5    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-9848-5221-2    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-5222-9    $9.99

Newt Gomez dreams of leaving Murphy Island, his isolated home in the Pacific Northwest — especially after he was attacked by a bear a year ago, which left him with lasting injuries and caused lingering difficulties among his family and friends. He hopes to not only attend middle school on the mainland but also move there to live with his abuela full-time. Newt plans to spend the summer lying low, but then his father presents him with a used taco truck for his thirteenth birthday (island law enforcement is unconcerned about driving age). And then he and his friends discover a large wooden bear carving washed ashore after a storm. The bear seems to have wish-granting powers, and its presence pushes Newt into some unexpected adventures and a new appreciation for his home. Baker captures the atmosphere of Murphy Island and its quirky denizens without becoming twee. Newt’s Latinx heritage is a key part of his identity and woven throughout the story, and the book’s exploration of friendship and loyalty is thoughtful and authentic.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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