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The Bear Whispers to Me, by Chang Ying-Tai

Translated by Darryl Sterk (Balestier Press 2015)

Publisher's blurb

A reclusive young boy stumbles upon his father’s diary. Filled with drawings, photos and anecdotes, the diary reveals an alpine world that his father once inhabited as a child: where tribes were fashioned by tree spirits; animals could be spoken to; fleas danced; and the moon and stars were guiding lights in darkling forests. His father’s world was alive with birdsong and hidden spirits, serene yet fleeting—but it all changed when he befriended two bears.

School Bookclub Reviews


Bookclub teacher's report , Dr T Munford, Saint Gregory's, Bath, April 2017

Book club met on Tuesday 3rd April 2017

Attendees were Y11 and Y9

The students agreed that it was interesting to read something that showed just how diverse Chinese culture is, because this book is set in Taiwan and touches on the indigenous culture there. Sometimes the impression outsiders get of China is that it has the same traditions throughout ,so this gave them an interesting insight into a different regional culture.

They felt that the book was quite confusing at first as it took them a while to figure out who was the character, the father as a boy or the son, but they enjoyed the various interesting characters like the young girl that hitches herself onto the family.

They found the ‘dark’ side of the story and the mystery of whether the bear is a bear or a feral child very fascinating.

And, as with other books they read last year (Jackal and Wolf in particular), they were fascinated by the very matter-of-fact way the writer describes the sexual side of animals (in this book, the monkey scene in particular!) which would be unlikely to be in young people’s fiction in the West.

Because of this, they also thought that the cover made it look like a book for Year 7s, (it had a touch of the Gruffalo illustrations, they said) when in fact it would not be something appropriate for Y7s.

Saint Gregory's, Bath