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The Picture Book Buzz

Polar Bear Island - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF and Giveaway

Part of my family immigrated from Lebanon. While I've personally never been a true immigrant, my father was in the Amy. We moved every couple of years. Sometimes it felt ( as a small child) like moving to another country. There were major differences between the speech and traditions of the southern and northwestern states. Enough that as a new kid, in a non-base, public school, one stood out like a sore thumb.

I am not belittling any immigrant's experience. And I know it is so much worse when discrimination, misunderstanding, and racial bias are involved. With the changes in the climate and the current state of politics world-wide, there will only be an increase in the numbers and extent of immigration. There is more to be gained, as a society (and individually), by acting as a globally connected, accepting society, than hiding behind isolationism and fear.

Okay, I'm done. (Been "preaching to the choir," after all.) I think you will all love this colorful, humorous spin on immigration.

Polar Bear Island

Author: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrator: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (2018)

Ages: 3 and up



Friendship, inclusion, immigration, and animals.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

When Kirby, a fun-loving penguin, arrives on Polar Bear Island, she shakes things up—much to the dismay of Parker, the mayor. Will Parker learn to see how great it is to make new friends? Or will he chase Kirby away . . . forever? “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? With its gentle message of inclusivity, this playful and lighthearted story will delight children.

Opening Lines:

Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable.

Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.

But Kirby waddled where the wind blew, and today she was floating toward paradise.

What I like about this book:

The story begins with the clash between isolationism and immigration. You've got to see how simply and beautifully Lindsay Bonilla and Cinta Villalobos capture both the cold shoulder that many immigrants encounter, as well as the innovative contributions they often bring with them, all through the incursion of penguins into a polar bear village.

Text © Lindsay Bonilla, 2018. Image © Cinta Villalobos, 2018.

Kirby, the penguin, "waddled where the wind blew." However, when her adventurous spirit carried to her Polar Bear Island, she faced an enormous sign - "Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed" and a very unfriendly, polar bear.

Text © Lindsay Bonilla, 2018. Image © Cinta Villalobos, 2018.

Even though Parker, the mayor of Polar Bear Island, adamantly wants to keep all others out, curiosity about of the newcomer and her Flipper Slippers (which not only kept feet warm but could reverse between skates and snowshoes) causes the other polar bears to plead with Parker for a one penguin exception.

Text © Lindsay Bonilla, 2018. Image © Cinta Villalobos, 2018.

Reluctantly, Parker lets Kirby stay. But when her family arrives, Parker 'blows a gasket.' However, these three penguins also have brought great new ideas (snow cones, sled beds, and snow chutes). When Parker is injured, during his temper tantrum, the penguins prove just how helpful and important they can be. Ultimately, Parker changes his mind and lets the penguins remain.

Through the fun, lighthearted story and delightful illustrations, Lindsay and Cinta have created a wonderful book encouraging inclusion and the acceptance of newcomers (immigrants).

Be sure to look at the end pages. They perfectly frame the story and even hint of more fun and changes coming to Polar Bear Island.


- check out the 8-page activity kit on Sterling's website (;

- pair this book with All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman (reviewed here) and trace where your family and/or your classmates came from on a map;

- can you list ways that immigrants changed America over the years (foods, traditions, games)?

- how can you help someone new to your school or city?

To be entered in the giveaway, simply comment on this post. (Sorry, limited to the U.S.) One lucky winner will be chosen at random next Friday.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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