The Secret Life of Bears

Joann Slead

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 32 Price: (paperback) $14.99 ISBN: 9781669855972 Reviewed: January, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

A story meant to help early readers understand their relationship to Jesus, The Secret Life of Bears presents him as a friendly father figure who is “like a teddy bear” but alive.

The narrative is presented in the voice of a young, anthropomorphic bear who praises his “Dad” for being generous, smart, funny, and always with him. The narrator then explains that the reader can also have this wonderful father figure for his/her own Dad, if the reader only asks and “let[s] Him help you with whatever is going on in your life.”

The narrative is not driven by a plot, but rather presented as a series of metaphorical ways in which the narrator interacts with its Dad, portrayed as a bear. These are brought further to life by brightly colored illustrations, which are simple and easy to follow and enjoy: for example, one image shows the bears fishing together, while another depicts them rolling about on a green hill, laughing at one another’s jokes. The book ends with a depiction of Jesus as human (pale, with red-brown hair) and an admission that while Jesus is “not an actual bear living in the woods,” he is just as wonderful as the story describes.

Some descriptions of the story’s Dad may contradict traditional conceptions of Jesus as the son of God, rather than God himself: He’s described as having directly created the universe and “the tiniest things there are, like ladybugs and even smaller things.” In any case, the Jesus-as-bear figure is shown to be loving, adventurous, and kind throughout, and such images and descriptions are sure to spark conversations with children.

A unique, if somewhat muddled, take on Christian sensibilities, The Secret Life of Bears presents a pleasant, cuddly version of Jesus for very young children.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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