Gentle Ben is a beautiful little story about a boy and a bear. It has received a couple of awards and is a touching happy book about a unique situation. Not every boy has or wants a pet bear, but Mark does. And by the time you get halfway through the book, you might be a bit jealous of the relationship Mark has with his bear. Try to remember the book is fiction though—you can compensate your wants by buying a dog, because bears are generally dangerous (as the book reiterates several times).
Gentle Ben is a good read for any child. Not just a lovely story, it demonstrates to the reader the ins and outs of the fishing industry in Alaska in an attention-grabbing way (even for a nine year-old). It also teaches about love, family, relationships, and responsibility. Especially responsibility. If you want your child to learn about stewardship, this book shows a kid who wanted a bear and was willing to work hard for it. He learned to fish, bargain for cheap food, and keep up a warm and dry environment for a large bear. He also learned that when you love someone, your hard work is worth every difficult moment and drop of sweat. This is a lesson we should all remember in fact, so if you are an adult, don’t hesitate to pick up the book. It will freshen your perspective on why you might put forth all your efforts for the ones you love the most.
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations.
Violence/Gore: A man is mentioned to have killed a mother bear; a character talks about men he has seen mauled and killed by bears; a young boy dreams that a large animal is shot to death; the cabin on a boat explodes (no injuries); an adult abuses a bear with a scythe, and the bear defends himself, almost killing the man; an adult threatens to kill a boy’s pet; two adults get in a scuffle; a character talks about his son and wife dying; a frightening scene where a ship is caught in a violent storm; a frightening scene where a boy believes his father might be killed in a storm; an adult tells others that an adult has died in a storm; gunshots are heard; adults threaten each other; an adult gets his leg stuck under a big rock and gets a small injury from it.
Mature Subject Matter:
Animal neglect, theft, death of a child, death of a family member, death of a friend.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults get drunk; an adult talks about forcing a bear cub to drink beer.