Bears Barge In

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.


“Ripped from the headlines,” this book addresses what has become a common occurrence, wildlife encroaching upon suburban neighborhoods. Or, is it the neighborhoods encroaching upon the wildlife? In a light-hearted and optimistic manner, this book addresses urban sprawl and people’s often reactionary attitudes about wildlife.

Zack enjoys his wild backyard, and the animals enjoy their forest, until Zack’s wilderness becomes a suburban neighborhood, and the space-deprived animals invade. There are bears in the bathtub and hornets in the hall. Zack’s neighbors close themselves off from the wild animals, but Zack stays, proving that humans and animals can peacefully coexist.

Before Reading

ASK: The title of this book is Bears Barge In. What does the word barge mean? Now that you know what barge means, what do you think the story is about?

SHOW: Look at the cover. What do you think is happening?

CONNECT: Have you ever had a wild animal “barge” into your house? It could have been a bear or something smaller like a raccoon, bees, or mice. What happened?

During Reading

ASK: In the beginning of the story, the animals and Zack live happily in their own homes. Then, all the animals barge in. What happens in the story that causes the animals to move in with the people?

SHOW: Look at the pictures with animals. How many different animals are pictured or named in the story? Do you see any of these animals where you live?

CONNECT: Zack’s neighbors are scared of the animals that invade their neighborhood. Have you ever been scared of an animal? What animal was it and why were you scared?

After Reading

ASK: Zack’s neighbors lock up their neighborhood to keep the animals out. Think about this and look at the picture on page 23. How does this make the people like animals or the animals like people?

SHOW: Look at the pictures on pages 28–29. Would you rather be the people behind the bars or the people playing in the trees.

CONNECT: Do you live in a wildlife-friendly neighborhood? Why is or isn’t it wildlife-friendly? If you don’t, make sure you get out into nature once in a while. As Zack proves, it’s good for you!


  1. Go to the author's website for a free parent guide for this book. It includes information about wildlife you might see near your home and tips for staying safe around animals. You can also download coloring pages featuring art from the book.
  2. Make a reminder poster for your family that lists your rules for keeping you and the wildlife in your neighborhood safe. For example, you might list, “Remember to securely cover the garbage can.” or “Thoroughly clean the grill when you are done cooking.” Post your rules where the whole family can see them. If you live in an area especially prone to animal sightings, be sure any guests you have also know about your rules.
  3. Have you seen wild animals in your neighborhood? Keep a log of all the wild animals you see (birds, raccoons, opossum, etc.). It might help to keep a notepad with the names of animals next to your front or back door. Then you can make a tally mark every time you see an animal. At the end of the week, check your tallies to see which animals are your most frequent visitors.
  4. Create an animal tracks identification card for quick reference during family walks. Make a copy of the animal tracks page located in the parent guide on the author's website for this book or find examples of animal tracks elsewhere. Create a pocket-sized card and laminate it. Keep this card in a backpack, along with a bird watching book, binoculars, a water bottle, a compass, an emergency cell phone, and a windbreaker, and go for hikes with your family. Look for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife, such as scat (animal waste), nests, and broken foliage.
  5. Take a stand against humans further encroaching on animal habitats. Send an email to your legislators asking them to block laws that are anti-wildlife, for example, those that allow mining or drilling in wildlife preserves. For some ideas, go to and click on “Wildlife” then “Take Action.” There is a list of current issues as well as a sample email to send.
  6. Subscribe to Your Big Backyard magazine, and every month you’ll be able to learn more about your backyard wildlife and wildlife from around the world. To subscribe, go to