THE DELIVERANCE OF DANCING BEARS
by Elizabeth Stanley
Winner, 2003 ASPCA® Henry Bergh Children’s Illustration Award
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Dancing bears were a common site in times past. Their owners were often gypsies who performed with their animals on the streets of Eastern European cities to earn money. This contemporary fable tells the tale of one such bear who is made to “dance” by being manipulated by a ring through its nose, that is until one man buys the bear from its owner and gives it a life of freedom and caring. This is a potent story about respecting the dignity of all animal life and the power of one person to make a difference.
ASK: Think about the title of this story. What do you think this story is about? Be sure to look up the word deliverance. Think of a new title using your own words.
SHOW: Look at the cover of the book and flip through the pages, glancing at the illustrations. Can you tell where and when this story takes place?
CONNECT: This story was written recently but takes place in the past in Turkey. This is a country between eastern Europe and western Asia. Read the postscript at the end of the book to learn why the author decided to write this book.
ASK: What do you read in the story that tells you the bear is being treated cruelly? How does this contrast to what the bear would be doing in the wild?
SHOW: Look at the pictures of the bear in captivity. You can look at an animal, wild or domesticated, and it will show expressions of emotions such as happiness, joy, sadness, or despair through its facial and body language. How do you think the bear might be feeling? Compare this to the pictures of the bear in the wild.
CONNECT: Where have you seen animals behind bars or being ill-treated? What were these animals’ natural habitats?
ASK: Why does Yusuf rescue the bears?
SHOW: Look at the last picture in the book. How do you think Yusuf feels as he watches the bears?
CONNECT: Just like Yusuf, our role as caretakers of wildlife is to care for our environment and to respect the natural habitat and habits of wild animals. Think of at least two ways that you can be a caretaker of animal wildlife.
- Even though it is illegal, sloth bears in both India and Pakistan are still being captured and forced to “dance.” They are taken from their mothers at a very young age and are pierced through the nose with red-hot needles, through which a rope is threaded. When the rope is pulled, the bears appear to dance, but they are really just being pulled around. This is not something they want to do, nor is it natural. These bear cubs often lose their teeth and are starved and hurt. Many bear cubs die. Sign an online petition to help dancing bears in India. Go to www.petitiononline.com/t1d2b3/petition.html.
- Or, write a letter yourself to India’s Minister of Environment. The World Society for the Protection of Animals has some great letter-writing tips at www.wspa-international.org/write_letter.asp. Send your letter to:
Secretary of Environment and Forest
Ministry of Environment and Forest
Government of India
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex
New Delhi - 110 003
- To read more about actual dancing bears today, read these two articles online:
- “The Last of the Dancing Bears” (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19250096)
- “Freedom Bought for Bulgarian Dancing Bears” (www.awionline.org/pubs/Quarterly/05_54_2/542p9.htm)
Then answer these questions for each article:
- Where do these dancing bears live?
- Who owned the bears and why?
- How were these bears treated? How are these bears like the bear in the story?
- Who rescued these bears? And where are the bears now?
- Performing animals are sometimes trained using cruel practices like those in this story. For example, elephants are often chained and hit with a bullhook, a kind of club with a sharp metal hook at one end, to get them to perform certain tricks. As well, they are forced to leave their mothers at an early age, and lack their natural social group (elephants are very social animals and need a familiar herd to thrive). What can you do to stand up for circus animals?
- Don't go to the circus—unless it's one that doesn't feature any animal performers. Most people who attend the circus aren't aware of the abuse that goes on behind the scenes. For a list of animal-free circuses, go to www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kids_ri_circus.
- Spread the word by writing a letter to the editor of the local paper when the circus is in the area. For ideas on what to include in your letter, visit the ASPCA Web site—www.aspca.org.
- Learn as much as you can about the different kinds of animals that perform in circuses. Find out where and how they live in the wild. You can also find out what conservation groups are doing to help these species in the wild. Support them and tell them how much you care about these animals.
[Tips courtesy of the ASPCA—www.aspca.org.]
- Organize a read-a-thon for circus animals using the ASPCA resources found at: http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=edu_circus_intro