This gentle story about friendship, devotion, and commitment features an unlikely pair: an elderly man and an inanimate (or is it?), inarticulate inflatable polar bear that adorns the rooftop of the factory where the man works.
Every day, white, gray-haired Iver takes his lunch on the roof, where he sits with this bear, dubbed Ellsworth. Iver takes it upon himself to care for Ellsworth, clearing away dead leaves, snow, or rain streaks, depending on the season, and making sure his ropes are fastened. One day, Iver is very slow going about his business, and he tells Ellsworth he is about to retire. The following spread is an exemplar of restraint with few words (“ ‘I’m going to miss you,’ he says”); this is succeeded by a few spreads with no words, showing only in pictures the characters’ stories in parallel: Iver eating alone in a diner and going to the movies by himself; Ellsworth loosed from his rooftop ropes, blowing across the city. The happy ending resolves neatly when Ellsworth lands—where else?—on the roof of Iver’s home. Larson’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations fit the tone, portraying a riverside industrial city with rolling hills beyond in suitably subtle grays, browns, and greens.
Bare trees, a white background to the images, and the muted colors suggest this takes place in winter; companionship in the winter of life is a cozy theme, portrayed comfortingly here. (Picture book. 3-7)