Bear Shaped

Bear Shaped

By Author / Illustrator

Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden


Mental Health & Wellbeing

Age range(s)



Oxford University Press




Paperback / softback




Jack and Bear are the best of friends. Jack loves Bear because he makes him feel brave. But one day Bear disappears and Jack suddenly feels all alone with a big Bear-shaped hole in his heart. Word soon gets around that Bear is missing and Jack starts to receive kind messages from strangers all over the world. Then the toy bears start to arrive. Though the bears start to heal Jack's sadness, none of them are Jack's bear. Perhaps there is something Jack can do withthem to help the other people with bear-shaped holes. . . A beautiful story of love, loss, and moving forward, inspired by the true story of Jack and his beloved Bear.



Bear Shaped is a lovely, true and heart-warming story about a boy, Jack, and his most beloved Bear. The story is full of lovely messages about friendships, struggles and overcoming fears. This picture book is beautiful illustrated, and the text is shaped around the pictures with key emotive words in bold which help to tell the story through Jack's experiences. This story really made me smile, and although there was loss and despair in the plot, overall it is such as lovely message about over-coming your fears and the generosity of strangers.

Jack goes everywhere with his Bear. They are best friends and Jack uses Bear to communicate with the world around him. Bear made Jack feel stronger, braver and calmer, in a world where he finds things and other people scary. The unimaginable then happens - Bear is lost and disappears from Jack's life. Jack searches everywhere for Bear and puts signs up asking for people to look out for him, but he is not to be found. Jack then starts to get letters and packages through the post from people who understand how Jack feels, and how special Bear was to Jack. In the end, although Jack never finds Bear, he finds kindness from strangers and learns to be caring and brave in kind.

Jack is a young boy on the autistic spectrum and the way his world is portrayed in this story is very realistic and allows the reader to understand immediately why Bear was such a special and important part of Jack's life and way of survival. Jack had a lot of difficulties which a lot of children can relate to, and Bear made him feel stronger. The physical and emotional pain of losing something so important, is also such a relatable topic for all readers, but what was lovely, was how other people started to send Jack letters and bears in the hope that he would feel better. The final message about always carrying a loved one in your heart, even when they are not there anymore, tells of a maturity and sense of peace which all can understand and empathise with.

I would use this book in class to help enable different children to empathise with difficulties other people may have in their lives. We would discuss how Bear had the power to make Jack feel brave and content, and how sometimes we need to overcome feelings of being unsure and frightened, and try something new in order to grow. We would also use the book to discuss the importance of feeling understood, and how it was wonderful for Jack to realise that he wasn't alone, and that other people cared enough to write to him and donate other bears for him.  I would also just use this book as a lovely story time book as the message, illustrations and the story are wonderful and can be enjoyed as just the story it is.

I feel that this book will appeal to all ages and stages of children, parents and school staff due to the fact the book deals with a great friendship, loss and courage to overcome this loss. It very subtly touches on the autistic traits and difficulties for Jack - but this doesn't define him. What does define Jack is the ability to look past his grief and sadness, to remembering how special and important Bear was to him, and will continue to be to him.

Picture book / Reviewed by Katherine Hutchings, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 3+


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