Spark and the League of Ursus, by Robert Repino, (Apr. 2020, Quirk Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781683691662
Have you ever seen that meme with a teddy bear standing over a sleeping child, challenging a looming monster? If you have, you’ve got the basis for Spark and the Legends of Ursus. Spark and Sir Reginald are teddy bears, pledged to protect their now-tween children, Loretta and Matthew, from monsters. Sir Reginald is the elder bear and mentor to Spark, the one who introduced her to the League of Ursus – the secret society of teddy bears, sworn to protect. Things are dire when a monster shows up in Loretta’s room, and when a neighborhood girl goes missing. Spark and Sir Reginald are determined to protect their charges, but find themselves up against a terrible evil that they need help battling. Additional League of Ursus members, a sock monkey, and Amazon warrior princess doll are all that stands between the monster and the children of their neighborhood.
This is an exciting, heartfelt adventure book that embraces our love of teddy bears. Their gentle natures belie the fact that they are bears, who can be pretty ferocious! The story also looks at the love between a toy and a child – in this universe, a toy doesn’t “awaken” until it’s loved by a child – and how that changes as the child gets older and finds less time for their toys. If you have Toy Story fans, and readers of books like Brian Lynch’s Toy Academy series, that are ready for a more involved book, this is the book to give them. Spark is a wonderfully idealistic, eager young character, waiting to be called upon for her moment; Sir Reginald is a world-weary warrior with much to pass along to his student. Loretta and Matthew are burgeoning filmmakers with their own YouTube channel, so there’s some filmmaking tidbits here and there that could link up nicely with some Summer Reading programming involving filmmaking, maybe on a cell phone.
Spark and the League of Ursus is a good first fantasy novel to give to readers who are looking for something new, and a good fantasy novel to give to readers who may need that reassurance that it’s still okay to love a teddy bear. (I do.) Have Stranger Things fans? Give them this one, too – that monster can surely come from The Upside Down.
Note: I believe the final book will have illustrations; my ARC didn’t.