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Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTemple GrandinThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bipolar ChildThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Boy Who Was Raised as a DogThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully Action GuideThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Burn JournalsThe Color of AbsenceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Evolution of ChildhoodThe Explosive ChildThe Eyes of van GoghThe Fasting GirlThe Field of the DogsThe Flight of a DoveThe Hidden Gifts of the Introverted ChildThe Horse BoyThe Identity TrapThe Inner World of a Suicidal YouthThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Last Normal ChildThe Little MonsterThe Medicated ChildThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of AutismThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Ride TogetherThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Science of ADHDThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Survival Guide for Kids With LD*The Unhappy ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouThings Tom LikesThrough the Glass WallThumbsuckerTotally WiredTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreating ADHD and Comorbid DisordersTreatment of Childhood DisordersTwistedUnder the Wolf, Under the DogUnhappy TeenagersUnstrange MindsWastedWe've Got IssuesWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWhat about the KidsWhat in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?What Works for Whom?What Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhose America?Why Don't Students Like SchoolWill's ChoiceWinnicott On the ChildWorried All the TimeYou Hear MeYoung Minds in Social WorldsYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
Cole Matthews is a violent, out-of-control, angry teen. He has
been in and out of trouble with the police for most of his teenage
years, committing first crimes against property and, increasingly,
crimes of violence against people. His latest outrage - a mindless,
vicious attack on innocent bystander Peter Driscal, has left his
victim with permanent brain damage and profound psychological
Angry and resentful, Cole seems on an inevitable trajectory to
prison, and perhaps therefore also to a life of crime. Through
the compassionate intervention of two community workers whose
motivation is atonement for their own (undisclosed) youthful criminal
behavior, Cole is offered the chance to participate in Circle
Justice - a process of restitution based on Native American tradition.
Circle Justice offers the chance for atonement for the perpetrator
of the crime, the chance for restitution, and perhaps also for
the victim and community's forgiveness. These concepts are in
fact completely foreign to Cole, himself the victim of an unstable
and violent home situation. Just as Cole has been exposed to the
damage and lies of alcoholism and domestic violence, so too is
he deeply scarred. Cole's caseworkers know that the deep resentment
and anger that Cole harbors make him an unlikely candidate for
Circle Justice. When he is initially given his "sentence"
- one year's solitary confinement to a remote island in the Alaskan
waters, it is clear to the reader that his commitment to the program
is surface only. His first act once left in solitary confinement
on the remote island is one of extreme vandalism followed by a
thwarted attempt at escape.
It is ultimately the intervention not by any person, but by the
giant, powerful Spirit Bear of the story's title that triggers
the beginning of a change in perspective for Cole. This legendary
(though also very real) Spirit Bear encounters and responds to
Cole's aggression by savaging him and leaving him close to death.
Through this near-death encounter Cole is humbled enough to start
on a long and very painful journey of atonement, a journey that
that eventually enables him to see himself no longer as the center,
but as only a small part of a much larger and much richer whole.
Michaelson gives us a full picture of teenage Cole's troubled
personality, his life, his chances and his painful growth. He
paints a picture of an angry, out-of-control teen who resists,
wrestles with, and finally accepts, the chance to face responsibility
for his choices. The novel's bringing together of Cole and his
damaged victim, Peter at the end is perhaps unlikely, and yet
this idealized conclusion nevertheless suggests to the reader
a potentially constructive alternative to conventional routes
of punishment and retribution, and a thoughtful, positive view
of the chance to heal deep wounds.
© 2001 Judith Catton
Judith Catton is a teacher and librarian with a longstanding interest in
children's literature. After completing graduate study in Library and
Information Science, and in English in Ontario, Canada, she has worked as a
children's specialist in public libraries in both Canada and New Zealand.
Her professional interests span children's literature and learning, and
information literacy. Her current professional focus is full-time teaching
in a New Zealand primary school.
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