Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman
Eerdmans Children’s Books, 2008
A bear named Voytek, meaning ‘smiling warrior’ in Polish, was found and adopted by five Polish soldiers serving in the British Corps during World War II. Based on a true story, the bear soon becomes their beloved pet. The men convince their Commanding Officer to make him Private Voytek, a member of the Corps. Voytek improves the morale of all the men, bringing laughter to an otherwise dismal time. Near the front lines, Voytek steps up to help unload bombs. Voytek becomes a hero when he captures a spy and when he convinces a new CO to send him, as part of the transportation unit, to the front lines. A remarkable story.
Netherlands author Bibi Dumon Tak brilliantly places the story in the life and death realities of a war and tells it in a way children can accept. This is the kind of story that stays with you long after the last page is read.
Soldier Bear won the 2012 Batchelder Award, an award given to a translated children’s book.