This middle-grade book follows the adventures of a girl from the far north whose ice raft drifts to New York City, where she learns about the plight of circus animals.
Haibu, 10, lives very far north in a tiny village. Her (fictional) Mayok people follow a lifestyle similar to the Inuit, which includes hunting with sled dogs, ice fishing, and avoiding polar bears, or “nanuq” (the Inuit word for polar bear). Haibu is impatient about restrictions on what girls can do in her society; she’d love to go fishing with her father and brother, for example, and isn’t scared of danger. The mantra that goes with her special bracelet has been passed down for generations: “I can do anything I believe I can do. I can be anything I believe I can be. I can achieve anything I want to achieve.” She decides to prove the mantra right and go ice fishing by herself. She catches some fish, meets a seal pup, and even learns that she can communicate with animals, but she runs into trouble when she confronts an angry polar bear. Then the ice floe beneath her breaks away and she’s sent drifting all the way to New York, where she finds refuge at an orphanage. In search of bears, Haibu finds a nearby circus, where the animals’ mistreatment galvanizes her; soon, she and the orphans mount a rescue mission. In this debut, Freeman and Price aim to educate children about “the global treatment of wild animals” and what they can do to help. The prose style is engaging and often funny, and the story may inspire kids to get involved. However, the characters’ remedy—breaking into circus cages—isn’t very practical, and scenes of animal cruelty may upset sensitive readers. The Mayok are also a problematic creation, appropriating details of traditional Inuit culture while adding elements like the Shookia bracelet, with its distinctly Western-sounding affirmations. Boros and Szikszai’s (Demon’s Dream, 1996) color illustrations are nicely detailed but cutesy, featuring middle-school-aged children with toddlerlike proportions; it’s also strange that Haibu, who’s indigenous to the Arctic, has blue eyes.
A flawed but hopeful tale about what children can achieve.