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Bear Feels Sick

Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide

Title: Bear Feels Sick
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jane Chapman
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Intended for Ages: 3-4 years
Jewish Customs: Bikur cholim (visiting the sick); g'milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness)
Additional Topics Mentioned: Each of us has the power to help others; presence is a gift.

Synopsis

Poor Bear! It is a beautiful day outside but he is too sick to enjoy it. He is too uncomfortable even to sleep. Bear’s friends come to visit him and each one does something to try and make him feel better. The very best thing these friends do for each other is make sure no one suffers alone.

Highlights

  • The story shows that each one of us has the power to help others. When Bear’s friends discover that he is sick, each of them does something to try to make him feel better. Though none of the friends is a doctor with a magic cure, each small effort helps make Bear more comfortable and feel cared for. Each of us – no matter how small – can offer a piece of ourselves to make life better for someone else.
     
  • We are reminded that presence is a gift. In the beginning of the story, Bear is alone in his cave when he starts to feel ill. When his friends learn that he is sick, Mouse whispers, “It’ll be just fine. Your friends are all here.” Our children seek us out when they feel sick or sad or insecure – knowing intuitively that our presence is a gift. Sometimes the best gift you can give someone else is just to make sure they aren’t alone.
     

Jewish Topics for Family Discussion

  • The mitzvah of bikkur cholim: There are many different ways to show you care when someone you love is sick. Bear’s friends make soup and tea, offer a cool compress, bring drawings and flowers, tuck him into bed and sit with him. Even when visiting sick friends or relatives with your young children is impractical, a card, a drawing or phone call can bring a smile to someone’s face and help to lighten the burden of their illness. That is what the mitzvah of bikkur cholim is all about!
     
  • Gemilut Chasadim: Bear and his animal friends show loving kindness to each other, by caring for each other. In Parashat Chayei Sarah, one of the iconic Torah portions from the Book of Genesis, acts of loving kindness (gemilut chasadim) and kindness to animals (tsa’ar ba’alei chayim) are exemplified by our matriarch, Rebecca. When she notices a weary traveler has arrived in her town, she rushes to provide water for him and his camels. You can find more ideas about exploring the concepts from this Torah portion with young kids using this discussion guide. Additionally, many synagogues have Tot Shabbat activities that are appropriate for families with young children.
     

Bear Feels Sick was mailed to 3-4 year old children in October 2013 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To find out if subscriptions are available in your area, please visit the PJ Library®-URJ-WRJ Partnership page.