There are a lot of books available for teens today.  For a smart, discerning young adult, the range and quality of the work has never been better.  But I’m often dismayed by the lack of value (my judgment call here) a good portion of the popular literature offers.  At least, insofar as what sells best.  There are those books that entertain (and they should), and fill an afternoon, but don’t remain. Don’t challenge the teen, don’t teach the teen, don’t inspire the teen – in short, they’re fluff.  Like an ice cream sundae soon consumed and soon forgotten.  I know as parents, we’re just happy our kid is reading. There are so many who don’t.

That’s why when I find one of those quiet books, that don’t sell phenomenally well but offer something of depth for the soul, I want to highlight it. I read The Ghost of Spirit Bear a few months ago and it is one of those special books that continues to resonate.

The Ghost of Spirit Bear is a sequel to Touching Spirit Bear, a book that is being used in schools to combat bullying. In the first book, an angry and defiant teenager who has severely beaten a school mate chooses Circle Justice over jail. Cole Matthews finds himself exiled to a remote Alaskan island to do penance for his crime. In that year, Cole is mauled by a bear and faces surviving the harsh environment of the north. Alone on the island he faces his demons and takes responsibility for what he did. The Ghost of Spirit Bear picks up with Cole returning to his urban high school and facing all the same challenges that existed before his exile. Bullying is rampant, the school is dangerous, and the administrators don’t care. The rage that Cole conquered on the island begins to return.

 The heart of the story concerns how Cole uses the Tlingit wisdom tradition’s teachings in a modern world. During the banishment Cole is forced inward to find out who he is and how to control his emotions. Back in the real world, he must work to maintain his sense of peace and develop a new place for himself. As he holds onto his center, he reaches out to change the negative conditions around him.

I have found very few fiction books for kids that depict a wisdom tradition and expose youth to detailed meditation practices. This is one of them. It is refreshing to see how Cole’s inner transformation becomes externalized and in doing so, changes his world.



Filed under Book Review, Books

27 responses to “THE GHOST OF SPIRIT BEAR by Ben Mikaelsen

  1. Fabulous message and well worth the time. This definitely one for spreading.

  2. Wow – This sounds like a fantastic read, and one that will linger with the reader long after they turn that final page too. I’m always amazed at the depth and variety in the YA and teen book genres these days – A far cry from the Sweet Valley Twins & Babysitter’s Club that were the main choices in “my day”! 🙂

  3. We have been trying to get our kids to read more than they do, as most parents. This is one of the book we purchased, but have not gotten around to reading yet. I think it just moved to the top of our list. It is so hard to find books that are both interesting to read and hold something tangible that the reader can take away with them in the end. Thanks for the review.

  4. Greg Chatham

    YA fiction is generally a guilty pleasure for me, but this sounds interesting. I’ll add it to the library queue. Thanks for writing the review and calling my attention to it.

  5. Sounds interesting, and I love the cover art.

  6. I always love discovering those amazing less well-known books 🙂

  7. I have found your blog to be quite “lovely” and nominated you for the “One Lovely Blog” award.
    Go to to check out the rules.
    Congrats on all your success!

  8. Hi fellow author! Just wanted to say, “Thanks!!!” for visiting my blog! I love young adult fiction and early childhood reads. With 13 nieces and nephews ranging from 4-16, it’s tough to find something they HAVEN’T ready already!

  9. Books with a REAL purpose…..wonderful !

  10. I commend those who write good books for YA. It is not easy in this time of video game, couch loving teens to find a grabbing story that teens don’t find childish or too adult. I have real reservation on this vampire, zombie stuff that is selling like hotcakes.

  11. Yes there is a deep need for reflective literature, and it is very good to see that the quality of what is available offsets the attention-deficit-disorder stuff which is around. Young people need an “initiation story” anciently. If they don’t have that nourishment, they tend to create their own violent version. Going inward and being able to travel instead of just being entertained and growing flabby, is essential. Thank you for the post.

  12. yesletsperformanceacademy

    ‘I have found very few fiction books for kids that depict a wisdom tradition and expose youth to detailed meditation practices.’…..That is wonderful. Certainly sounds like a book that would captivate me!

  13. Your post reminds me why it’s so important for me to finally pick up Touching Spirit Bear. Great review.

  14. I concur — lovely blog and great recommendations. Thanks for visiting mine, as well! Cheers…

  15. Wonderfully written post and tribute to these books. Yes, I concur, absolutely excellent read for young adults, and adults alike. I remember back in high school we had an option of a number of different books, and large number of the class willingly chose this book to read. They delivered some superb book reports- definately grips the interest and provokes thought. Good book to marinate over and gain perspective. I’ve never read them, but may just have to sometime soon. Wonderful, love this, well done! Cheers,

    Autumn Jade

  16. This sounds like a powerful book. I don’t know if I could stomach it, but I could probably learn a lot.

    Thanks for stopping by my little blog, it made me feel good.

  17. teacher1blog

    I will recommend this one to my grandson. thanks

  18. Sounds a great book with many levels and perfect for teens who are thinking and working out their philosophies. Sounds like an attractive read for adults too.

  19. Reblogged this on Marsha Lee and commented:
    This sounds like a good book to share with teenagers who are struggling with bullying or being bullied.

  20. Thanks for sharing. I’ll recommend it.

  21. Hi I’ve nominated you for a Booker award go to to find out more!

  22. Next on my reading-list! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Ben, your first paragraph says it all. Though I’ve not read Ellis’ books, I will promote them for the very reason you mentioned. Great review. The word needs to get out.

  24. jasonexplorer

    Great synopsis. Sounds a fantastic read. Thanks for sharing!

  25. This sounds like a very good book. It puts me in mind of Jean Craighead George and her books Julie and Julie and the Wolves.

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