Written by Fredrik Backman

Publisher’s Summary:
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Primary Source Pairing:
“Who are we? The bears from Beartown!” is the chant that can be heard on and off the ice. Hockey is life in Beartown. Hockey is the salvation the town desires. Hockey itself is a character in this book along with all the other humans the readers meet. We also get to know hockey and its influence and power. We learn that hockey can bring a community together and it can tear it apart. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze a photograph of the Crescent hockey team – champions of an amateur league in New York in 1911. Discuss with students how the sport of hockey, as portrayed in this book, takes on a life of its own and how that influences the plot.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Compare this photograph of a hockey team to what you visualized when you read about hockey in Beartown.
  • Compare this photograph of a hockey team to what you see when you look at a current image of an NHL team.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Crescent hockey team – champions of amateur league in New York” photograph: Library of Congress