Cover Reveal: The Great Bear by David A. Robertson
My favorite book ever is Tom’s Midnight Garden, a classic middle-grade novel about a boy named Tom who goes through a portal every night once a grandfather clock strikes 13. Through the portal, he travels to the past. There, he meets a girl named Hatty, and develops a relationship with her as he meets her at different stages of her life. It’s a clever and emotionally resonant book, and it’s what made me love time travel stories. Since my first book was published in 2009, writing a time travel story has been on my bucket list. All I needed was the right idea. With The Great Bear, book 2 of the Misewa Saga, I found that idea.
When I started writing The Barren Grounds, book 1 of the Misewa Saga, I knew book 2 was going to be a time travel story. I had (maybe too much?) fun playing with plot points in The Barren Grounds, knowing that I was going to address them in cool ways in The Great Bear. I didn’t worry so much about paradoxes—time travel stories have a tendency to bog themselves down by talking about rules of time travel. I just wanted it to make sense in the logic of the world I created, and above all else, to be really entertaining.
But there’s more to The Great Bear than time travel. Every book in the Misewa Saga adapts a traditional Cree story of the sky. The Barren Grounds was an adaptation of the fisher (Big Dipper) constellation. The Great Bear is an adaptation of the Mista Muskwa (Big Bear) legend, another Big Dipper creation story, and the Seven Birds (Corona Borealis). It’s important for me, in my work, to keep these stories alive, just as the Elders have done since time immemorial. I want to document these incredible legends, which hold valuable teachings, for future generations. Of course, depending on the storyteller, elements may change, but the heart of the story doesn’t.
The heart of The Great Bear, then, is the same as it was for Elders who’ve told these sky stories for many years, and it’s just as relevant today. It’s a lesson about bullying. In particular, it’s a lesson about bullying others because they are different than us. In this book, Eli, one of the heroes of the Misewa Saga, is being picked on because he’s First Nations. It leads Eli to make a drastic decision that I know will be hard to read, but it will be equally important to discuss, either between kids and teachers, or kids and parents.
What I loved about writing The Great Bear was trying to bring all these elements together to form a seamless and engrossing narrative. Where time travel could mix with traditional stories of the sky which, in turn, could mix with contemporary issues like bullying, racism, the foster care system, cultural detachment, and reconnection.
Mostly, though, it’s a harrowing adventure in a fantasy world that kids will want to visit time and time again, whatever time it may be.
The Great Bear comes out September 2021 and is available for pre-order now.
DAVID A. ROBERTSON is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award. The Barren Grounds, the first book in the middle-grade The Misewa Saga series, received a starred review from Kirkus and was a Kirkus and Quill & Quire best middle-grade book of 2020, as well as a USBBY and Texas Lone Star selection, and is shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award. A sought-after speaker and educator, Dave is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.