by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Secrets of Bearhaven, Book One, by K. E. Rocha. Illustrated by Ross Dearsley.
NYC, Scholastic Press, January 2016, hardcover $14.99 (242 [+4] pages), Kindle $9.24.
Here is the first novel in another talking-animal series for 8-to-12s. 11-year-old Spencer Plain has grown up immersed in bears. His parents, Shane and Jane Plain (well, some parents do give their children goofy names), are bear activists; wildlife specialists devoted to bears and founders of Paws for Peace. They know all about bears and have taught Spencer all about them. They give presentations on bears to the public. But Spencer has never lived with bears – not in nature, or in a secret bear civilization in the forest; a high-tech society where the bears have communicators around their necks that translate their growls into English. He has never imagined working with bears to rescue his parents from human villains.
The book begins at a breakneck pace:
Spencer Plain raced through the forest, his heart pounding. He dodged trees and skidded across patches of slick moss, trying desperately not to fall. Now was not the time to fall.
There was a bear behind him.” (p. 1)
“‘What’s going on, Uncle Mark?’ Spencer said, his voice coming out too high and a little shaky. ‘I talked to Mom and Dad this morning, and they were fine.’ It was one o’clock now. How could so much have changed in only seven hours?
‘Same here,’ said Uncle Mark, slowing the car to idle at a red light. ‘But then I got a message from your mom around eleven, and I haven’t been able to get in touch since.’
‘What kind of message?’ Spencer asked. He looked out the window, trying to get his bearings, but they were stopped at an intersection in an unfamiliar neighborhood in the middle of a long stretch of brownstones. None of them offered any clues.
‘Your parents made an important plan a long time ago, Spence. Your mom’s message today was that I should put that plan in motion …’ The light turned green and Uncle Mark shifted into gear, quickly pulling ahead of a garbage truck. ‘So here we are. In motion.’
‘What important plan?’
‘I’m taking you to a safe place,’ Uncle Mark answered.” (pgs. 10-12)