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Book Review: The Ring Bear Depicts Turmoil of Becoming A Stepchild

In "The Ring Bear," a picture book by Tigard resident David Michael Slater (Flashlight Press, 2004), a single mother and her son, Westley, love to play rascally pirates. Like many single parents and their kids, it's clear the mom and her son are incredibly close: They've created their own fantasy world about Westley the Wicked and Mom the Mean.

Enter Stan, Mom's boyfriend, who sometimes comes aboard their ship but refuses to wear an eye patch and doesn't want to search for stowaways. Westley thinks it's okay if Stan comes on board, as long as he understands he's a visitor, not a real pirate like Mom and Westley.

When Mom tells Westley that she's going to marry Stan and wants him to be the ring bearer at the wedding, Westley staggers back to his pretend ship. He mistakenly thinks Mom said she wants him to be the "ring bear." Imaginative Westley assumes the role of Ring Bear and acts out his confused feelings about his mom's marriage. He snatches out of Stan's hands flowers meant for his mom; he pounces on Stan and Mom when they're watching TV; he hides in his bear cave and plots ways to wreck the wedding.

In this warm and beautifully illustrated book, children get a realistic look at how it feels to have a parent re-marry. Westley knows his mom loves him; but what about Stan?

Slater, author of Cheese Louise! and a seventh grade language arts teacher, does a great job of engaging both adults and children with this humorous book. The Ring Bear, like most picture books, ends happily: Stan dons an eye patch during the wedding, then Mom, Westley and Stan sail off together. While the happy ending may not reflect the cold realities of early stepfamily life, it will give stepchildren hope about the potential for feeling loved and accepted by a new stepparent.

Lisa Cohn, an award-winning writer, is co-author of "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies" To sign up for her free newsletter or read her articles, visit www.stepfamilyadvice.com.

In The News:

Robert Ballard, the man who found the remains of the Titanic, said in a recent report that his discovery was part of a "top secret" deal made with the U.S. Navy in order to help elude Russia in the 1980s.
Scientists have made a fascinating discovery on asteroid Bennu thanks to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
MOSCOW (AP) — Two Russian cosmonauts were preparing to venture outside the International Space Station Tuesday to inspect a section where a mysterious leak has been discovered.
The remains of the famous Revolutionary War frigate USS Bonhomme Richard have been discovered off the coast of the U.K., more than 200 years after it sank following a naval battle.
The megalodon may have been the largest marine predator to ever live, growing up to 60 feet with teeth nearly the size of a standard sheet of paper, but a new study suggests it succumbed to one foe that caused it to go to extinct — itself.
The end of the Permian period, around 252 million years ago, was a dire time for life on Earth.
Stargazers, get ready to bundle up as you catch one of the best meteor shows of the year — the Geminid meteor shower.
Researchers are putting a global network of the most precise timekeepers ever made to the task of hunting for dark matter, the invisible and largely intangible substance that researchers think makes up about five-sixths of all matter in the universe.
A pattern of small holes cut into the floor of an ancient rock shelter in Azerbaijan shows that one of the world's most ancient board games was played there by nomadic herders around 4,000 years ago, according to an archaeologist who has investigated the find.
David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ alter ego would be impressed … NASA has released the first-ever audio recording from the surface of Mars.

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