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The Water Bears (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

On Murphy Island, everything is eccentric. But Newt Gomez just wants to be normal...shake the bad dreams that persist about the bear attack he survived, to not be the only Latinx in his town. And then there's the bear statue that might grant wishes... 

A new novel by our long-time friend and Ballard author, Kim Baker! 

Recommended by Christy for kids ages 9-12

— From Our Favorite Kids Books


A quirky, empowering story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and, maybe, some magic. For fans of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones and The Canning Season by Polly Horvath.

Newt Gomez has a thing with bears. Having survived a bear attack last year, he now finds an unusual bear statue. Newt's best friend thinks the statue grants wishes. But even as more people wish on the bear and their wishes come true, Newt is not a believer.

But Newt has a wish too: while he loves his home on eccentric Murphy Island, he wants to go to middle school on the mainland, where his warm extended family lives. There, he's not the only Latinx kid, and he won't have to drive the former taco truck--a gift from his parents--or perform in the talent show. Most importantly, on the mainland, he never has bad dreams about the attack. Newt is almost ready to make a secret wish when everything changes.

Tackling themes of survival and self-acceptance, Newt's story illuminates the magic in our world, where reality is often uncertain but always full of salvageable wonders.

About the Author

KIM BAKER's first book, Pickle, has been selected for many reading lists and was a finalist for the CBC Children's Choice Book of the Year and the Texas Bluebonnet Award. When she was thirteen, she lived above an old movie theater and drove a rusty VW van for odd jobs. Now she and her family live in Seattle near beaches and tide pools but usually far from bears. Visit her at

Praise For…

★ “Both a whimsy-soaked journey of self-discovery and a successful exploration of the tough reality of recovering from trauma.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ "Baker contrasts Newt’s everyday life and quiet desperation with his unusual surroundings and quirky neighbors.  . . . [A] subtle, satisfying read." —Publishers Weekly, starred review 

“This is a sweet coming-of-age novel about a boy trying to overcome his fear and pain with the help of a loving, supportive family.” —School Library Journal

"Newt’s Latinx heritage is a key part of his identity and woven throughout the story, and the book’s exploration of friendship and loyalty is thoughtful and authentic." —The Horn Book

“A captivating story that creatively blends the wonder and excitement of potential magic with the life challenges that each character must face. A joy to read!” —Christina Diaz Gonzalez, author of the award-winning The Red Umbrella and the Moving Target series
“Is there magic on Murphy Island: a monster in the lake, a bear that grants wishes? The Water Bears is a magical story with wonderful characters set in a most unusual place.” —Patricia Reilly Giff, author of the Newbery Honor winners Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods
“Like a lucky charm or a cup of warm cocoa, this book wraps the reader in hope and offers comfort in the face of change. A sincere exploration of recovery and growth.” —Anna Meriano, author of the Love Sugar Magic series
“Kim Baker sees the world I live in clearly: the beauty and the hard things, the complications, and the magic. Most of all, she sees our connections. A magical, honest look at life’s messy wonder. Highly recommended.” —Kelly Jones, author of the Unusual Chickens series and Sauerkraut

The Water Bears brims with enchantment, from the maybe-magic of a wish-granting bear to the tried-and-true, real-world magic of family, friendship, and community.” —Kate Messner, author of Chirp and The Seventh Wish

Product Details
ISBN: 9781984852236
ISBN-10: 198485223X
Publisher: Yearling
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Pages: 272
Language: English