This reading group guide for Bear Necessity includes an introduction and discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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Danny’s life is falling apart. A single father to eleven-year-old Will—who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier—Danny has been fired from his construction job. To make matters worse, he’s behind on the rent and his landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast. After observing local street performers in a nearby park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. What follows is a funny and moving story of how a father and son overcome their grief in surprising ways. Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Early on in Bear Necessity
, we learn that Danny’s wife died in a car accident that left his son, Will, unscathed. Danny expresses a wish that it had been him instead. Do you think Will feels similarly?
2. On page 11, Danny wonders what Will is communicating by not speaking. He says: “Whatever he wants to say to me, it can’t be any worse than the silence.” What do you think Will’s silence means? Do you agree there is nothing worse than silence?
3. Danny decides to create a dance act after observing street performers in the park. What motivated this impulsive choice? How does being a single parent affect the other decisions he makes?
4. Danny chooses the panda costume because it’s the cheapest one in the shop. How does the silliness of the panda costume affect the book? Which costume would you have chosen?
5. On page 75, Danny speaks to a photo of his late wife, asking her what he is doing. How does Liz’s presence linger over this story?
6. How does Danny’s relationship to dance shift over the course of the novel? Why do you think he perseveres?
7. What makes Will feel comfortable enough to finally talk to the man in the panda costume? Do you think Danny’s silence in that scene encourages Will to open up?
8. When Danny has the opportunity to win a life-changing sum of money in a competition, he teams up with an unlikely ally. Were you surprised by the relationship that Danny builds with Krystal? What does he learn from her and from the other street performers?
9. Will tells the panda that he didn’t speak after his mom’s death because he “thought it would all go away if I ignored it for long enough” (page 155). Danny seems to be on a similar path when we first meet him. How does their grief evolve over the course of the book?
10. When Danny rereads his notes from his conversation with Will, he keeps returning to the sentence “Mum was like my friend, but my dad is just my dad
” (page 161). Why do you think Will feels this way? Have you felt similarly with your own parents?
11. James Gould-Bourn introduces readers to a lively cast of characters. Which of the secondary players is your favorite, and why?
12. While Bear Necessity
explores some heavy themes around loss, loneliness, and love, it alternates between humorous passages and more thoughtful, sentimental ones. What was the funniest moment for you?