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Bear Shaped

Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden
Age 3-7 years

Jack finds trying new things or communicating difficult due to his autism but his favourite toy, ‘Bear’ makes him feel brave. One day Bear disappears, leaving a bear shaped hole in Jack. News that Jack has lost Bear spreads fast, messages come from all over the world and bears start arriving in the post. The kindness of others makes Jack realise how lucky he has been to have Bear and that many children might appreciate a bear of their own too.

Inspired by a true story, this is a sensitively told and beautifully illustrated picture book about loving and losing something precious. It conveys one child’s experience in a gentle and moving way. This book has resonance for everyone who has lost a toy, loved pet or perhaps even member of the family and also provides insight into the world of an autistic child.


Share the story

Read aloud
Before beginning to read the story aloud to your child look at the cover together and talk about why the little boy might be hiding behind his toy. Then read the story aloud to your child.

When you do so, pause when Jack loses Bear to talk about how he might be feeling and what might have happened to Bear.

Join in
When you read the story again point to the words as you read especially as they curve across the page – children might like to join in with this. You could point out the words ‘Jack’ and ‘Bear’ which are repeated on lots of the pages.

Children could tell you the story using the illustrations to help them – they might use some of the same phrases or they may change some parts and tell them in their own words.

Watch the story read aloud
Dawn Coulter- Cruttenden, the books creator, reads the story aloud here 

Talk about the story

  • Talk about Jack’s feelings at different points in the story looking back at the pictures together for clues.

  • Talk about what your favourite toys and why you like them – is it because of how they feel? Or is it to do with when you were given it? Share your childhood favourite toys with your child too!

  • Talk about times when each of you lost something special – it might be a toy that was lost forever then found again or it might be a pet. This conversation may lead naturally to talking about bereavement if that is a concern for your child.


Things to make and do

Draw a portrait
Choose a favourite toy to draw using colouring pencils or crayons. 

Make a den and read a story to a special toy
Make a secret den like Jack does. See here for ideas . Your child could take a toy into the den and read or tell the stories in some of their favourite books to their toy.

Make a poster

Make a missing toy poster like Jack does – you could make it about one of your toys or about Jack’s lost toy Bear.

Make an album
Take photos of you with your special toy in different places or doing different things like Bear. if you can, print them out and make them into a mini photo album with labels.


Find out more 

Adults may be interested in listening to the book’s creator talk about the true story behind the book 

Find out more about autism
Watch a Sesame Street video explaining autism to children