Cole Matthews has been driven
by anger all his life. Heís happiest when he knows others are afraid
of him. Finally, his anger allows him to seriously injure another
boy. After Cole bragged at school about breaking into a hardware
store, Peter Driscal told the police. In revenge, Cole beats him
up so badly he leaves peter with permanent brain damage. Cole certainly
would have gone to jail if parole officer Garvey hadn't sponsored Cole
for Circle Justice. Circle Justice is an ancient Native American
that focuses on healing rather than punishment. Cole is to spend
a year alone on an Alaskan island. A year meant to give him time
to learn to cope with his anger and heal from his own mistreatment at the
hands of his father. Once he's alone on the island, Cole Releases
his anger by burning down his shelter with all his food, clothing, and
other supplies inside. But the worst is yet to come. (Mary
Huebscher, Librarian, Holy Cross of San Antonio, San Antonio, TX firstname.lastname@example.org)
Did you ever meet a guy that
you really, really didn't like? Didn't like the way he dressed, didn't
like the way he talked, didn't like the way he acted--just plain didn't
like anything about him?
That's how I felt about Cole
Matthews for most of this book.
Cole Matthews is a mean, nasty,
bad-tempered, rotten bully. He is used to getting his own way by lying,
cheating, and pushing other people around. For years he's been hauled into
drug counseling, anger therapy sessions and police stations, and every
time he got into trouble he was warned to "shape up because this was his
last chance." And he has learned that he can always count on having one
more "last" chance.
But when Cole beats up a younger
kid and smashed his head against the sidewalk, he is in the biggest trouble
of his life. Peter may be permanently brain damaged. When Cole is offered
Circle Justice, a system based on Native American traditions that attempt
to provide healing for the criminal offender and the victim, he plays along,trying
to avoid a prison sentence. The Circle sends Cole for a one-year banishment
on a remote Alaskan island, where he is mauled by a mysterious white bear
during an attempt to escape. As he waits for death, Cole's thoughts begin
to change, and he begins to accept responsibility for his actions.
He is not suddenly cured, however.
After six months in the hospital, Cole returns to the island, accompanied
by Edwin, a Tlinquet elder who has agreed to teach him. On the first day
back on the island, Edwin hands Cole a big rock to carry up a hill....
read exerpt from book (this
skips around in a few paragraphs) pp. 155-157, hardback edition:
"How far are we going?" Cole
Edwin continued up the long
Grumbling, Cole followed.
As they walked, Edwin spoke. "Your life isn't an accident. Many generations
of your ancestors struggled through life, learning lessons, making mistakes,
just as you have. Each generation passed on to the next what they learned
and all that they became."
After several hundred feet,
Cole's right arm ached from carrying the heavy stone. He stopped and looked
back. They were barely halfway up the slope.
"Pretend that rock is your
ancestors," said Edwin. "Climbing this hill is your life. With each step,
you carry your ancestors with you, in your mind, in your heart, and in
your soul. If you listen, your ancestors reach out from the rock and teach
you the lessons of their struggles. Hear your ancestors. Someday, you'll
pass those lessons on to others."
Cole acknowledged Edwin's
words with a weary grunt and struggled on without complaining. By the time
they reached the top, he breathed heavily. He was about to drop the rock
to the ground when Edwin reached out, took the heavy stone, and set it
down carefully. "Treat your ancestors gently," he said.
"What are they, wimps?"
Edwin ignored Cole's comment.
"I've carried that stone up this hill hundreds of times," he said.
"This very same rock?"
"You mean you carry it back
down again, too?"
Edwin smiled. "There's a better
way. Once the rock is set down, it changes meaning. Now it becomes your
anger. Roll the rock down the hill. Roll away your anger. Each time you
do this, you'll find more meaning. And you'll learn respect."
"What do you mean, each time
I do this? I'm not going to carry that stupid rock up this hill every day.
What makes you think you know everything that's good for me?"
Edwin drew in a deep breath.
"I don't. Nobody does. We all search for answers, same as you."
"They why do you keep telling
me what to do?"
Edwin smiled. "That's the
first intelligent question I've heard you ask all morning."
Will carrying a rock make Cole
a better person? No, it won't. But the rock is part of the healing process.
And there's still the problem of Peter, the injured boy. What can Cole
possibly do for Peter?
Read the book and find out.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
(by Aarene Storms of the King
County Library System,for Evergreen
Young Adult Book Award, 2003-2004.)
Cole Matthews is an angry,
violent young man. He loves seeing other kids afraid of him.
When a classmate gets Cole angry, Cole beats the boy so severely that he
is left with permanent brain damage. Cole knows he is facing jail
this time. His parents have gotten him out of trouble before but
this time he doubts if he'll go free. It doesn't matter. He
is so tough he isn't afraid of anything. Cole's parole officer sees
something that others can't see. He sees a Cole who can be saved.
He arranges for Cole to face an alternative justice system. It's
the Native American "Circle Justice". Cole goes along with it just
to stay out of jail. When the Circle sentences Cole to live by himself
on a remote island in Alaska for one year, Cole laughs at the sentence.
He agrees but he secretly plans his escape from the island. Will
he be able to survive his year in exile? Will he escape? Can
Cole be saved?
ďAnger is a memory never forgotten.Ē
How many in here can recall a time when youíve been extremely angry about
something? Would you say that you could still get angry about that
situation right now if we started discussing it again? Have you ever
thought about losing that anger? Or how to deal with your emotions?
For Cole Matthews this was no easy task. Why should he care about
his anger? No one cared about him. This story details this one young
manís journey to find his soul and lose his anger over lifeís hard blows
and the hard blows heís dealt to others. Cole is a repeat offender at the
department of juvenile justice. Heís also no stranger to counselors and
intervention programs. So, when the opportunity arises to participate in
a quest for finding his true spirit through a Native American Circle Justice
program he agrees. Privately, Cole scoffs at the concept of some Indian
tradition set to help him find a healing solution; heíll agree to anything
to keep himself out of prison. Cole is almost mauled to death by a bear
during his banishment on an Alaskan island. From this mauling, Cole
learns the power of healing physically as well as emotionally. Read
Touching Spirit Bear to get in touch with your own spirit; by Ben Mikaelsen.
(Melanie Crumpton, email@example.com,
West Ashley Middle School, Charleston, South Carolina)