BOOK REVIEW: Great Polar Bear

by Carolyn Lesser

Cover GPB

“Great polar bear…
How do you survive
on the thick ice covering the Arctic sea?”

I seldom review children’s books due to a chronic deficiency of reading time, but I was tempted away from my usual diet of literary fiction and serious biography by this enchanting tale of an Arctic polar bear.

Author and illustrator, Carolyn Lesser, seamlessly weaves scientific fact into her poetic narrative in such a way that it doesn’t anthropomorphise the beguiling but formidable creature. We follow him as he moves steadily across the tundra, sniffing the icy air with his sensitive nose, seeking a female. We see him sleeping beneath the snow as freezing winds rage above his head; and we smile as he play-fights with exuberant cubs. We shudder, too, when he seizes a seal emerging from a breathing hole, knowing he must do so to survive.

At the end of the book we discover some ‘Explorer’s Notes’ and a colourful map showing whereabouts in the world polar bears live. There are a couple of pages from the ‘Author’s Journal’ with photographs showing the St Louis dwelling Lesser coming face to face (close enough to smell its fishy breath) with a “big male” in Canada’s Cape Churchill. She describes the experience as forming “every word and shred of hand-painted, cut paper” in her book.

Lesser’s superb artwork captures the beauty and power of the enormous Ursus maritimus and its pristine yet harsh environment. As a child, I would have loved reading this book and, had I done so, would have embarked on life a more knowledgeable adult. There is, however, plenty here for parents to learn about this magnificent, mysterious animal.

“Kids and adults must live as brave environmental conservationists, standing out and speaking up on behalf of the health of our planet, to stop global warming.”

Many thanks to Seagrass Press for providing an advance review copy of this title.

Categories: Children's / YA Non-fiction, Science & Nature

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9 replies

  1. On the rare occasions when I spend some time in the “children’s section” of a bookstore or library, it feels like a treat – the content and illustrations in many of the books seem to be just my speed!

  2. As the Arctic ice shrinks we must wonder for how much longer will we be privileged by the existence of these magnificent creatures in the wild? We’ve all seen the distressing images of gaunt, starving bears shambling along for lack of prey and ice to hunt them on; maybe the only knowledge our grandchildren and their children will have of them in future will be through picture books like these. It feels as if the next mass extinction is well underway and that we are powerless to stop it. 🙁

  3. Absolutely love children’s picture books. And they are the hardest to write!


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