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Children's Fiction Friendship

How to Be Human: A Bear’s Guide

by (author) Sophia Kolinas

illustrated by Aparna Varma

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Friendship, Bears, Environment, Imagination & Play
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: 1 to 12


A bear and a girl form an unlikely friendship as they show each other the important things in life

Once there was a bear who lived in a forest and did all the regular bear things. But as his home and the world around him change—fewer fish, fewer trees, and less quiet—he notices how tricky his life is becoming to maintain. The sensible thing to do is adapt, so the bear enlists the help of a little girl and asks her to teach him how to be human.

The unlikely duo works together to master the art of being human, but when the bear heads to the city to try out his new skills, nothing goes as planned. Back in the forest, the girl considers that maybe humans should learn from bears instead. So the bear shares his own unique knowledge with the girl, and she ultimately discovers that the Earth is a place of giving, where all living things breathe together.

Charming illustrations bring this story of cooperation and friendship to life, inviting readers to see the value of exchanging ideas and learning from others.

About the authors

SOPHIA KOLINAS is an elementary school teacher and artist from Toronto, Ontario whose work can also be found in Chirp magazine. She loves storytelling, adventuring in the green, and planting flowers for the bees that visit her garden. When she's not teaching or creating, Sophia is working on her Freeze Dance moves. (She isn't fluent in Bear…yet.) How to Be Human: A Bear's Guide is her debut picture book.

Sophia Kolinas' profile page

APARNA VARMA is an illustrator for books and stationery with a bright sense of color and humor. Born and brought up in India, she spent many of her formative years in Botswana, Africa. She also works as a creative producer in animation and currently dreams and draws in Toronto, Ontario.

Aparna Varma's profile page


  • Nominated, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
  • Commended, Best Books for Kids and Teens Starred Selection

Editorial Reviews

"This sweet and charming story about friendship convincingly emphasizes the importance of being bear-y good stewards of nature."


"A sweet and compelling story, How to be Human presents a refreshing approach to picture books within the environmentalist genre without being overbearing or didactic."

Canadian Review of Materials

"This picture book brings a timely message about what it means to work with the natural world to a young audience through an age-appropriate, expertly pitched, and well emoted story."

Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database

"Adorable cartoon illustrations highlight the ursine-girl relationship ... Perhaps the Earth would be better off if humans were more like animals."

Kirkus Reviews

"Young readers will be enticed by the telling illustrations that show the importance of working together for the greater good."

Sal's Fiction Addiction

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