Friendly curiosity and a gift for naming earn a polar bear an assortment of (mostly animal) friends, adventures, mishaps, and discoveries.
Arriving at a northern ocean, Duane spies a shipwreck. Swimming out to investigate, he meets its lone occupant, C.C., a learned snowy owl whose noble goal is acquiring knowledge to apply “toward the benefit of all.” Informing Duane that he’s a polar bear, she points out a nearby cave that might suit him—it even has a mattress. Adding furnishings from the wreck—the grandfather clock’s handless, but who needs to tell time when it’s always now?—he meets a self-involved musk ox, entranced by his own reflection, who’s delighted when Duane names him “Handsome.” As he comes to understand, then appreciate their considerable diversity, Duane brings out the best in his new friends. C.C., who has difficulty reading emotions and dislikes being touched, evokes the autism spectrum. Magic, a bouncy, impulsive arctic fox, manifests ADHD. Major Puff, whose proud puffin ancestry involves courageous retreats from danger, finds a perfect companion in Twitch, a risk-aware, common-sensical hare. As illustrated, Sun Girl, a human child, appears vaguely Native, and Squint, a painter, white, but they’re sui generis: The Canadian author avoids referencing human culture. The art conveys warmth in an icy setting; animal characters suggest beloved stuffed toys, gently reinforcing the message that friendship founded on tolerance breeds comfort and safety.
Quirky and imaginative—postmodern storytelling at its best. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)