Reimagined for the 21st century, a familiar folk tale becomes a haunting love story and a reminder that first love may not last a lifetime.
The traditional Scandinavian tale relates the attraction between a great white bear and a young girl, her betrayal, and her subsequent journey to find him and free him from his enchantment. In Morris’ telling, the ending is modern. The story begins in reality. She’s the eldest child of immigrants seeking asylum and struggling in a new country. Even those readers who don’t know the fairy-tale background will know that fantasy is coming from the very beginning, when a polar bear performs a feat of magic on a gritty city street. But while the girl loved the bear, the woman, grown and given a name—Berneen—has more complex emotions. Modern references appear occasionally throughout the text, but this is folklore world, with a splendid variety of landscapes. Watercolor paintings between chapters show fields and forests in several seasons, a southwestern desert and the icy wastes of the frozen north. There are spreads showing the girl, the bear and the castle as well, and tiny vignettes throughout indicate breaks in the action.
This leisurely, lyrical, romantic and realistic version is one to savor and to read aloud, and again, and again. (Fantasy. 11-15)