A polar bears searches for colors beyond white.
Bear lives “at the top of the world,” which is made of white ice and white snow. The animals, including whales, are white or light gray (though all have faintly pink cheeks); even the ocean’s light gray. Bear yearns for colors. A sea gull requests help from a brown-skinned, round-faced girl with straight dark hair who lives elsewhere (readers never learn where). She collects Bear in a skiff and takes him traveling. They see a Dutch windmill, the Blue Mosque, the Taj Mahal, and much more. Countries and sights aren’t named, though the copyright page lists them. Pages show a white background behind irregularly shaped travel scenes; each page’s scenes emphasize one hue. As pages turn, the scene-shapes shift through the rainbow spectrum, quenching Bear’s color thirst. Kono’s premise is more trope than truth, because the real Arctic has many hues. A confusing moral appears. Supposedly the Arctic “always had” colors, and Bear had “just needed to learn how to see them,” but the only new Arctic-environment colors to appear—not Bear’s (new) paintings nor the illustrations’ confettilike decoration—are the northern lights; they appear in one gorgeous, stunning spread, and it’s hard to believe that Bear’s never seen them before.
A bit touristy and perplexing in its lesson but cheerfully enjoyable—and worth it for that northern lights spread. (Picture book. 3-6)