The Picture Book Buzz

Polar Bear - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I have the privilege to offer a sneak peek preview at this amazing nonfiction picture book created by the award-winning duo Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann, which releases December 6th. This book is definitely a treasure for polar bear lovers, environmentalists, and Fleming/Rohmann fans.

Polar Bear


Author: Candace Fleming


Illustrator: Eric Rohmann


Publisher: Neal Porter Books (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Polar bears, Arctic life, climate change, zoology, and Arctic ice.


Synopsis:

This companion book to the authors’ Sibert award-winning Honeybee explores the life and habitat of a majestic endangered species through dramatic text and sumptuous illustration.


As spring approaches in the Arctic, a mother polar bear and her two cubs tentatively emerge from hibernation to explore the changing landscape. When it is time, she takes her cubs on a forty-mile journey, back to their home on the ice. Along the way, she fends off wolves, hunts for food, and swims miles and miles.


This companion book to Honeybee and Giant Squid features the unique talents of Fleming and Rohmann on a perennially popular subject. Eric Rohmann's magnificent oil paintings feature (as in Honeybee) a spectacular gatefold of the polar landscape.


Opening Lines:

April in the Arctic . . .

Cold winds send snow clouds scuttling across the sky.

Temperatures barely nudge above freezing.

But every now and again,

The cloud cover parts,

The sun shines down,

And the frozen world stretches awake.


What I LOVED about this book:

Written with the beautifully lyrical text and inviting voice characteristic of Candace Fleming's nonfiction books, this is a remarkable look at a year in the life of a mother polar and her two cubs. Candace brings us close to the point of view and responses of the polar bears without personifying them. But tenderly, and dramatically, places the reader alongside them, while at same time interweaving scientific details. about the bears, their habits, and habitat.


Seven days after first emerging from their den, "Mother’s instinct tells her it’s time."

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Eric Rohmann, 2022.


She nudges the cubs away from the only place they have known.

One cub whimpers.

The other squalls.

Where are they going?


The question, asked of the reader, could also be a question by the cubs? But the only "words" or thoughts attributed to the cubs are their tired complaints of “Aruuu!” In this way, Candace allows us to be close and curious wildlife observers of these special bears, without disturbing their natural behaviors.


Just from that cover, you know you're in for a visual treat. And then, like his previous nonfiction books, you get three spectacular spreads before you even get to this title page. How can you not want to follow this family on its adventure? Those faces are so adorable!

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Eric Rohmann, 2022.


Eric Rohmann's detailed oil illustrations are absolutely stunning. Using a limited palette of colors, he makes the starkness and captivating beauty of the bear's Arctic home come to life. Just like he did in Honeybee, Eric captures the minute texture and subtle colors of these magnificent bear's fur, as well as the range of emotions of a caring and protective mother bear and her growing and curious cubs.

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Eric Rohmann, 2022.


Following her instinct and her nose, Mother leads the cubs on a long forty-mile trek from the den to the ice of Hudson Bay. She travels "along a trail she took with her own mother... along a trail her cubs will take when they are grown." She's drawn to the ice to find food after her long five month fast. While Candace and Eric don't shy away from the fact that polar bears eat seals or from showing adorable seals evading a big bear paw in her first attempt, the successful attempts occur "off stage." The focus remains on the interaction between the bears; what and how the cubs learn to be polar bears from their mom. And what the bears need to survive. This battle for survival provides plenty of tension and a few "aww" moments.


Using strategically placed questions - such as "What has happened to the Arctic spring world she has always known?" and "Can they survive?" - readers are drawn into the sudden, life-threatening reality of the ice melting too early and the polar bear family caught on a sheet of ice floating away from shore. This spread, while gorgeously capturing their plight, also tugs at the heartstrings of readers as the bears appear to be appealing directly to the reader for help. They are not responsible for, nor can they understand, the climate changes they face. They can only react and hope to survive.

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Eric Rohmann, 2022.


Tense moments, before, during, and after an impressive double gatefold keep the reader engaged and anxious. Can the cubs survive a long swim through frigid arctic waters? Will they have eaten enough to make it through the lean summer? When will the ice return? And why does it take so long? Interspersed among these serious questions, we watch the cubs grow, tussle, and learn. I can't even begin to describe the final illustrations. The interplay of light and reflections makes them prints I'd love to hang on my wall! You will find them and the ultimate resolution heartwarming, yet sobering.


The back matter includes a diagram of a polar bear focusing on the features which help them survive in the harsh Arctic. A detailed note provides additional in-depth information on the changes occurring to the ice and the effect this has on polar bears and seals. And some ways readers can make a difference. There's also a "few cool facts" and additional digital resources. This is a wonderful book on polar bears and the challenges that climate changes are posing for them. A book that would make a fantastic addition to all libraries.


Resources:

- create polar bear bookmarks (for family & friends). Or make a polar bear family on an iceberg (maybe add a cotton ball tail and pull apart & glue cotton balls for fur) and tell your own polar bear story.

- try some polar bear cookies or polar bear cupcakes.


- with your parents or teacher, write a letter(s) to your congress person(s) and ask them to help save the polar bears.


- check out the links at the end of the book to track polar bears in real time or watch a National Geographic episode about a baby polar bear.


- pair this with a fun fiction picture book, The Bear Report by Thyra Heder and the nonfiction, Polar Bears by Mark Newman.


If you missed the interview with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann on Monday, find it (here).


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

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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