Dear Book Lovers,

I took a writing class from author Lee Roddy a number of years ago. As a result I purchased one of the books in his D.J. Dillon series. I’ve been a fan ever since. These books seem to respect kids right where they are. The adventures that thirteen-year-old D.J. experiences are exciting and special to his life in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, but they are the experiences of a kid. The books also show his everyday struggles and successes.

The City Bear’s Adventures is the second book in the series. As this book opens, D.J. and Paul Stagg, the town’s new lay preacher, find a bear cub whose mother has been killed. Left on its own in the wilds, the cub will starve. D.J. convinces Paul to help him capture it so that he can take it home and care for it. Koko gets into lots of mischief and D.J. is kept busy making things right. Owning the cub makes D.J. a local celebrity. When a movie company that is planning to shoot a film in the small mountain town hears of the cub, they offer D.J. and the bear parts in the film. A bully, who claims the cub is his and continues to threaten D.J. brings an added an element of danger and suspense.

On the more “everyday” side, the story tells of the growing friendship between D.J. and Alfred, a new boy in town. I like it that the book acknowledges the importance of friendship in the lives of boys. In our culture we often acknowledge that relationships are important to young girls, but sometimes we forget to affirm for boys that they also want and need friends. Both D.J. and Alfred benefit from their friendship as they tramp the woods together, train the bear to do tricks, and also train D.J.’s dog to track.

Descriptions of nature and animals are simple, but vivid. The reading level is about fifth grade.

This book though is more than an outdoor adventure story. D.J. is a new Christian and he faces challenges to his new faith in God. His father is hot-tempered and antagonistic toward church. Sam Dillon also wants to remarry and the widow has a nine-year-old daughter whom D.J. dislikes. D.J.’s beloved grandfather is in frail health and the boy is worried about him. And then, there’s the fast-growing cub. D.J. knows he cannot keep Koko with him forever, but what should he do? The story gives the reader an opportunity to watch D.J. learn how to respond and live out his faith in God.

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