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Sarah Whitcher's Story: 12/15/09

Sarah Whitcher's Story by Elizabeth Yates is a short chapter book based on an actual incident where a 3 year old child wandered away from the family homestead and was cared for by a bear until she was found a number of days later.

The crux of the story is that young Sarah stays alive because she isn't frightened. It's not that she's an especially brave three-year-old. Rather, she mistakes the sow bear for the family dog.

I find that explanation had to swallow for a normal, healthy girl her age, especially one growing up in such close proximity to nature. I did a test with my own three year old who has seen both bears and dogs. I showed her a photograph of a bear and a photograph of a dog (the same breeds illustrated in the novel). I asked her to name the animals. She got them right instantly.

Sarah Whitcher isn't the first child reported to have been helped by a wild animal mother but she's much older than the ones who end up "feral" and her time with the bear is much shorter than the ones who do end up growing up in the care of the wild animal. It would have been much more interesting and dramatic if Sarah of the novel had been aware that she was with a bear and perhaps felt like she had to pretend the bear was no scarier than the family dog, rather than just blindly mistaking the bear for the dog!
My thoughts and complaints are with the book, not with the real child who spent a few days and nights with a bear. I don't know what she thought or experienced, obviously.

The book though does have lovely illustrations. Fans of the Little House series will probably enjoy Sarah Whitcher's Story.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, December, 15, 2009 at 17:09:53

Nicola Manning

Awww, I remember loving this story!

Comment #2: Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 21:36:23


Thirty years ago I probably would have liked the story too. I did still like the illustrations even if my reaction to the text was skeptical.

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