Cover image for I know a bear
I know a bear
Ruiz Johnson, Mariana., author, illustrator.
Uniform Title:
J'ai un ours. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Schwartz & Wade Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Each time a girl visits a bear in a zoo, she listens to his tales of the vast and wondrous Land of the Bears, his home that he will never see again.
General Note:
"Originally published in France as J'ai un Ours by √Čditions Gallimard Jeunesse, Paris, in 2011."
Reading Level:
Ages 3-7.

330 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 2.0 0.5 169454.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



In this touching, hopeful story that reads like a modern classic, a young girl befriends a bear in the zoo. He comes from far, far away, a place he calls the Land of the Bears, where the food is sweet and the land is vast. It is a wondrous home, where the rivers are like bathtubs and naps last for months and months. But, alas, he cannot return; his new home is the zoo. And so the girl listens carefully as her friend remembers, and she imagines a world of freedom, vast and sweet.

Using a gentle tone, spare language, and gorgeous illustrations, Mariana Ruiz Johnson reminds young readers that being a good listener is what makes for a good friend.

Author Notes

Mariana Ruiz Johnson is the author and illustrator of several books for children in other countries. This is her first picture book published in the United States. She lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Is caging animals for mankind's entertainment or education a humane practice? That is the question presented in this understated picture book certain to be the impetus for serious discussion. Simple, straightforward text and subdued illustrations in black, gray, and green reveal a small blond child (the gender is nonspecific) who describes visits to the black bear's cage at the local zoo. Then the bear reminisces about the land of bears, where the creatures are free to roam, climb trees for honey, swim in rivers, and hibernate over the winter. Both the child and bear understand that the animal can never return to that life, and its captivity causes the sympathetic youngster to acknowledge the plight of her family's caged pet bird at home. A powerful tale gently told that introduces a concept many children may not have examined but undeniably will begin to contemplate.--Owen, Maryann Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

First published in France, Argentinian author-artist Johnson's deceptively casual tale, her U.S. debut, conceals a moral dilemma. A girl with unruly yellow hair sits in bed. She's drawn in gentle, charcoal-like lines, tinted with pastel shades. She addresses readers: "I know a bear that comes from far away. From a place he calls the Land of the Bears." Over several spreads, she's seen accompanying the bear wherever he goes, dressed in her pajamas; the two gather honey and swim in the river. "Naps last for months and months.... The bear tells me that this place is both vast and wondrous." Another page turn reveals the sour truth: the bear is seen behind the bars of a zoo cage, where the girl visits him. At home, she regards the family's caged pet bird. "Today," she says, "I had an idea." She opens the door and frees the bird. "It felt both vast and wondrous." It's a featherlight portrait of a child who feels a call to take action and heeds it. Readers will hope that she can find a way to free the bear. Ages 3-7. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Soft, whimsical narrative voicing distinguishes this Argentine debut, originally published in France in 2011. The book is akin in illustration style to Jon Klassen's work with its soft tones and gentle charcoal lines and shading, and in poetic tone to Margaret Wise Brown (or more recently to Julie Fogliano). A child recounts the story of a bear that now lives in a zoo but is "From the Land of the Bears/A place both vast and wondrous." The large animal shares his memories of home: "The rivers are like bathtubs./Naps last for months and months./This is what he tells me." Then the tale turns woebegone when the creature pronounces that he cannot go back to the Land of the Bears. The narrator of unknown gender listens, tells, and applies what is learned, enacting a brave act of healing-all because of the reflective thinking required by sharing Bear's story. Very succinct in delivery, but with a profound message of empathy and the power of memory and place. Pair with Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Little, Brown, 2013) to get a conversation started about our needs, and those of all animals, for both freedom and for a home.-Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.