Despite the sweet picture on the front cover this book is a hard-hitting topical tale concerning the exploitation of wild bears in Laos. The story is told in the first person by 12 year old Tam who is obliged to work in the ‘farm’, where bears are milked for their bile, to help support his family. Tam’s struggle against injustice really draws in the reader and there’s a cast of well-rounded characters. I found it fascinating to discover more about Laos and any animal-lover will care greatly about the plight of the bears, especially the cub which Tam nurses back to health. It’s an emotional tale, involving cruelty to both animals and humans, but told with a certain amount of naivety and with an ultimately hopeful ending.
Highly recommended for pupils in Year 6 and above, perhaps as a ‘What next?’ for Michael Morpurgo fans.