Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Tunes For Bears To Dance To by Robert Cormier

Tunes for Bears to Dance to
by Robert Cormier
Publisher: Laurel Leaf, Mass Market Paperback, 1994, 101 pages

Description on the book:

After his brother's death, Henry moves with his parents to a new town, where he meets and befriends Mr. Levine, an elderly survivor of the Holocaust who spends his days carving a replica of his childhood village.

Enter Mr. Hairston, who holds power over Henry's life. He is a man of glittering promises, but he exacts a terrible price from Henry that involves the boy's friendship with Mr. Levine.

All Henry has to do is...
My Review:

Wow! Robert Cormier is a remarkable author. This is another riveting example of Cormier's mastery of powerful realistic fiction.

Tunes For Bears To Dance To is about a young boy Henry who recently lost his older brother in an accident.  Even though his family moved to a new town to escape the memories of his brother, Henry's father is still stuck in a dark depression and his mother is struggling to support the family during the post-WWII era. To help out, Henry works at a local general store for a bigoted owner who is nice to customers while in his store but says some really nasty stuff once they leave.

One day, Henry follows an old man whom he sees every day walking back and forth from the psychiatric hospital next door. Henry soon befriends the old man, Mr. Levine, and the learns about his past as a Holocaust survivor and why he's staying at the "crazy house". Then Henry is blindsided when he's given a terrible ultimatum. Henry is stuck in the middle of a moral dilemma and has very little time to decide what to do.

Just over 100 pages, this book is a short, fast read. Henry is genuine and you can't help but feel sorry for his situation (and cheer him on despite it).  I'm the type of reader who gets emotionally involved while reading and I found myself gasping and getting teary-eyed at several points. Tunes For Bears To Dance To is not a happy read. It confronts some uncomfortable topics and situations dealing with mental health, prejudice, and the concept of evil. But it's another Cormier tale that will stay with you long after you finish it. I love Cormier's powerful yet simple and effective writing.

My Rating: 5 out of 5! Couldn't put it down.

I also recommend Cormier's Heroes, a startling book about a young disfigured WWII veteran who plans on killing the man that inspired him to enlist. Surprisingly, I haven't read "The Chocolate War" or "I am the Cheese" yet. But they're on my TBR list now.

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