The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

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Some books are simply unforgettable experiences for boys and girls.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain cover pageThis is a fantastic moody thriller that builds suspense gradually, but never goes too fast or too far.

Yes, many children's books may be guilty of being simply to hard to follow or being too boring.

This one demonstrates how an author can find the perfect measure.

Perfect timing and effortless storytelling go arm in arm to create a read-aloud gem that is superb for all ages.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain helps children address their hidden fears and also builds confidence in their own judgement.

Readers are thrust in the shoes of young Jonathan who is constantly reminded by his family that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain, yet he suspects the answer could be different.

After we get to know Jonathan and the story of his large extended family, one day his mom sends him over Hemlock mountain to visit an aunt. Jonathan's task is to bring a pot that his mom needs to cook stew for 20 relatives.

And yes, this is Jonathan's first time to cross the mountain on his own.

It is early spring and even if there were any bears they would still be hibernating, mom said.

Or would they?

The grain of suspicion is planted in our minds that there could possibly be some bears on Hemlock Mountain.

But were there really any bears on the mountain?

What was hiding up there?

Unbearable Uncertainty

      Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear. 
     Baruch Spinoza 

As you probably guessed, this 1953 Newbery honor story is all about confronting our fears of the unknown.

Page and illustration from The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
There is nothing preachy about Alice Dalgliesh's tale and kids will not immediately sense that there is a hidden message in the story.

Most of the grown-ups in the book, as well as the main character Jonathan, attempt to deal with the fear of bears through denial, by constantly repeating to themselves that “there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain.”

Yet this method of wishful thinking is not effective and Jonathan suddenly finds himself face-to-face with the dreaded bears of Hemlock Mountain.

All alone.

Through his quick thinking - he saves himself by upturning the pot that he was carrying ... and hiding underneath until help comes.

Despite the dramatic encounter with the wild beasts, Jonathan is able to proudly inform his family that “There ARE bears on Hemlock Mountain!”

The little boy has come of age after facing a frightening truth all grown-ups previously avoided.

This book is clearly a read-aloud gem (don't take only my word for it!) that should be part of your home library.
Two page spread from The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

Whenever I take it out for a read, a special 'Hemlock Mountain' atmosphere descends into our home and my twins get ready for an evening of suspenseful story-telling.

Every week or month, out of the blue, I ask my kids: "Are there bears on Hemlock Mountain?"

The answer is a resounding "Yes!", followed by a "Are we going to read the book tonight, dad?"

Oh, yes.

You don't have to take my word for it.

Check this gem out for yourself. 

Be warned. 

If you don't read the book, you will never know what is really on top of the mountain.

So, my advice to you is: better start repeating to yourself: 

"There are no bears on Hemlock Mountain, No bears, no bears at all..."

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain is available from bookstores in the US

Amazon USA

and other countries:

The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE

Or check out an Audible audio edition (unabridged):


    1. I will have to try with my 2nd grade son as soon as we finish up Percy Jackson! Thanks for the book review!

    2. Hi PragmaticMom,

      So glad that you are following up on some book tips - I sincerely hope your boy will enjoy The Bears on Hemlock Mountain!

      It is an exciting book indeed!

      Hope to read a review of Percy Jackson on your fab site

      Read Aloud Dad

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