In this companion to The Blue Whale (2015), Desmond introduces the polar bear’s habitat, physical characteristics, life cycle, and food sources.
The pithy text clearly explains such adaptations as the bear’s two layers of fur and extraordinary sense of hearing. Details about hunting for food, raising young, and the crucial role played by sea ice in the bear’s range are smoothly delivered. The digitally finished illustrations, combining paint, pencil, crayon, and printmaking techniques, are lovely when texturally evoking ice, sea, and fur. Threading throughout, though, are fanciful depictions of a black-haired, brown-skinned child—perhaps intended to appear Inuit. Wearing a red crown, fur-trimmed parka, striped tights, and boots, she plays in various scenes (often toting this very book). A spread likening the polar bear’s weight to that of 7-year-olds depicts 20 cavorting children. Most appear to be Inuit or at least First Nations, but the white child from The Blue Whale is shown, sharing that book. The penultimate spread shows the girl sleeping, entwined with a bear and cubs. The juxtaposition of fantasy and realism is confusing and undermines the book’s informative aspects, and no cultural context is provided for the Inuit depictions. Environmental threats to the polar bear’s habitat are relegated to a brief author’s note; there are no resources for further information.
An uneven effort. (Informational picture book. 5-8)