Bears Barge In Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
By Joni Sensel - 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 some people’s 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? Use it in a sentence and act it out. If you barge in, are you welcome? 

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 something big or small like a squirrel, bat, bees, or mice. What happened?

During Reading

ASK: In the beginning of the story, the animals and Zack live happily in their own homes. What happens in the story that causes the animals to move in with the people? Whose home is this neighborhood, and how can they solve this conflict for the good of all?

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? How do they make their home and find food? How do you separate from and include them?

CONNECT: Zack’s neighbors are scared of the animals that invade their neighborhood. Tell about a time you were scared of an animal or an animal was scared of you. What did you learn from the experience?

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. Why?

CONNECT: What can people do to include nature and wildlife a part of their balanced life?  


  1. 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 family and visitors can see them.
  2. Keep a log of all the wild animals you see (birds, raccoons, opossum). Write what you see, when, and what they do. Read more and add notes about those animals' habits.
  3. Visit a local nature center to learn about animals that are natural to your area and how to help them thrive. Teach others about what you learned.
  4. Make a booklet about an animal and how it relates to humans. Include a message of respectful treatment of the animal. It may be fun to use humor and art in your book.