The Water Bears by Kim Baker
English | 2020 | Childrens > Middle Grade | ePUB | 2.6 MB
Kim’s first book, Pickle, has been selected for many reading lists and was a finalist for the CBC Children’s Choice Book of the Year and the Texas Bluebonnet Award. When she was 13, she lived above an old movie theater and drove a rusty VW van for odd jobs. Now she and her family live in Seattle near beaches and tide pools, but usually far from bears.
A story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic.
All Newt Gomez wants for his thirteenth birthday is a bike. After surviving a bear attack last year, he thinks this isn’t an unreasonable request. Instead, his hardworking parents give him a former taco truck to help him get around the wacky island where they live in the Pacific Northwest. And then Newt and his best friend Ethan find a life-sized wooden bear washed up on the shore. Ethan is convinced the bear grants wishes; Newt doesn’t know what to think.
Newt also has a big decision ahead: go to middle school on the island, or to the mainland where his warm extended family lives? There, he won’t be the only Latinx kid; he doesn’t have bad dreams about the attack, and not everyone knows what happened to him. Newt secretly plots to move to his abuela’s house, but his truck is stolen with the maybe-magic bear inside. He must confront his fears and adapt to the reality of a world that’s often uncertain, but always full of salvageable wonders.
“Just forty feet that way!” he said. “It spy-hopped and breached like a humpback, but leaner and more serpent-like. It splashed down hard enough to slosh a wake up onto the shore.” Dad pointed to his still-wet shoes. The guys around him nodded, and a waiter came out from the café across the street to sell coffee and pastries to everyone standing around.
“Hey, buddy. Ready for summer?” Tom-with-the-beard tilted his head and smiled at me. He runs the paddleboat stand, and he’s not my buddy. He asked how physical therapy was going, like he should get points for knowing about it. I said I was done, and he said I was brave and squeezed my shoulder, which is the absolute worst.
I shrugged and he left to rent a paddleboat to a tourist. Somebody could ride a blue cat boat or a purple fox boat out to look for Marvelo. Tom-with-the-beard must have left the paddleboats unchained, because a couple of them drifted around the lake like lost pets. Little Leti sat in the orange zebra boat still chained to the dock. She threw a basketball up and caught it, over and over.
“Newt! Come here!” Dad pulled me in for a hug. “Happy birthday, mijo! Thirteen! You feel different?” I shook my head. “Can you believe it?” I didn’t know if he was talking about turning thirteen or Marvelo. My answers would have been yes and no, but he didn’t wait. He spun around when someone asked about the reward. A cryptozoology club in Portland offered three thousand dollars a while back to anyone who could prove that Marvelo lived in the lake. The lake isn’t huge. It’s a pretty safe bet that the club will never have to write that check, no matter what Dad says. The club has reward offers for Sasquatch and jackalopes too. It’s that kind of operation.
I don’t even want to get into it, but my dad is writing a graphic novel about an island with two monsters called Marvelo and Manxadon. Manxadon is the sidekick, a superhero mutant that’s half mastodon and half Manx cat. He stays on land, and Marvelo stays in the water. I used to help Dad sometimes, bounce around story ideas, but it’s been a while. They’ve put short sections of the story in the Murphy newspaper a few times. People who don’t think too hard about the logic love it. He wants to make it a full graphic novel, but he’s too busy building condos on the mainland to ever finish.
“Is this for the book?” I said.
“Absolutely. Marvelo moved like I thought he might, but I got the skin texture totally wrong. How are you feeling, mijo?” He brushed my bangs back, but I pushed his hand away.