Moon Bear
by Gill Lewis and Alessandro Gottardo

Overview - Both torn from their homes in Laos, a boy and a moon bear cub form a deep bond in this "moving and memorable" ( Kirkus Reviews , starred review) tale of impossible odds and resilient hope, based on true and tragic conditions in Eastern Asia.  Read more...

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More About Moon Bear by Gill Lewis; Alessandro Gottardo
Both torn from their homes in Laos, a boy and a moon bear cub form a deep bond in this "moving and memorable" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) tale of impossible odds and resilient hope, based on true and tragic conditions in Eastern Asia.

Twelve-year-old Tam, on a dare, ventures into a moon bear den in the mountains of Northern Laos. His goal is to steal the cub and sell it, making a fortune for his family. But the mother bear's unexpected return upends Tam's plan, and he barely escapes with his life. And then his life implodes anyway: his entire mountain village is made to relocate to make room for a new highway. Lured by the promise of electricity, running water, and a television, Tam's people move to an overcrowded village, where Tam's father is killed by a stray landmine.

Now the family breadwinner, Tam is forced to work hundreds of miles away in the city of Laos, at a moon bear farm where bile from bear gall bladders is used for medicine. It is a cruel, miserable place, and when a familiar face--the very cub he'd seen in the den in Vietnam--is sold to the bear farm, Tam knows he must save this moon bear, no matter what it takes.

Deeply and powerfully moving, Moon Bear is an unforgettable story of compassion, hope, and bravery against overwhelming odds, and brings to light the real-life, heartwrenching plight of Asia's endangered moon bears.

  • ISBN-13: 9781481400947
  • ISBN-10: 1481400940
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publish Date: March 2015
  • Page Count: 384
  • Reading Level: Ages 8-12
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Juvenile Fiction > Animals - Bears
Books > Juvenile Fiction > People & Places - Asia
Books > Juvenile Fiction > Nature & the Natural World - Environment

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-01-26
  • Reviewer: Staff

In northern Laos, 12-year-old Tam and his family endure one hardship after the next. His family is forced out of its mountain home to make way for a road, a hidden bomb kills his father, and Tam is sent away to work a dangerous job tending a handful of caged bears for a man known as the Doctor. Lewis’s (Wild Wings) simple word choice and sentence structure belie the rich atmosphere and symbolism that she deftly integrates into this tale, which is populated by relatable and fully realized characters. At the heart of the story is Sôok-dìi, a moon bear cub that Tam helps raise from infancy. Like Tam, the bear is a victim of circumstances—forced to live in a cage and endure experimentation, he is restless and yearns to be free. Through Tam’s selfless quest to get the bear back to the wild, and his protection of the cub at the expense of his own well-being, readers witness the depths of his bravery, compassion, and strong moral compass. Art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Mar.)

BookPage Reviews

A moving Laotian tale

In this humbly magnificent tale of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, 12-year-old Tam goes from wretchedness to hopefulness as he begins to understand the ancient wisdom of his people.

Tam’s family is forced to relocate from the mountainous forests of Laos to an area outside the Mekong Delta, the first of several events he must adjust to and eventually overcome. The displaced family receives a terrible history lesson when Tam’s father explodes a stray land mine while clearing his field and dies. To help support his family, Tam takes a job in the city at a cruel “farm” where bile is extracted from live, rare moon bears. The bears’ living situation is appalling, but Tam is powerless to change anything.

General Chan, the powerful man in charge of the relocation project, often visits the moon bear farm, seeking the bile to cure his daughter, Savanh. Tam and Savanh become friends, and he tells her the truth about the farm. Eventually Tam makes a bold move to forever change the life of one small bear. Savanh supports Tam’s decision, leading to a dramatic confrontation.

Cultural references lend much grace to this tale, in which the pure of heart ultimately win.


This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews