CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1953
by Lynd Ward
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1952
Interests: nature, farms, hunting, bears
Every barn in the valley has a bearskin nailed to it, except for the Orchards’. Johnny Orchard feels humiliated that neither his father nor his grandfather have ever shot a bear. One day he sets off himself to bag one, the biggest bear anyone’s ever seen. Instead he finds a cute little cub. He brings him home as a pet, but the bear soon grows to an enormous size and eats everything he can get his paws on. Finally the neighbours complain and Johnny tries to return him to the woods, but he just keeps coming back. The only solution is a tough one.
Johnny and his father talked it over and they decided there was only one thing to do. Johnny said he would do it.
He walks his bear far into the woods. As Johnny stops to load his rifle, the bear suddenly sniffs and takes off. Johnny is holding his rope and gets dragged along too, right into a cage, placed by men looking for a bear for their zoo. The bear gets a new home with plenty to eat, and Johnny gets to visit any time… and bring him maple sugar candy.
Some advanced ideas to communicate, about hunting, about wild vs. domestic animals, about living peaceably with your neighbours, and about doing what you’ve gotta do. The understated moment when Johnny and his father agree that Johnny has to shoot the bear might be challenging, although happily he is spared that eventuality.