With balloons and a carousel taking center stage, this nocturnal fantasy will provide a pleasurable lift for young audiences.
When Emma passes the polar bear on the merry-go-round, she notices a message tucked into his saddle: The titular request includes text and a drawing, so pre-readers can help decipher its meaning. On her way to school the next day, the red-haired protagonist affixes a red, polka-dot balloon to the bear’s pole. Returning in the afternoon, she finds a second note requesting more. After the bountiful bunches are attached to the animal, the pair is carried aloft through the sunset and the stars until they reach the snowy Arctic and, in a double gatefold opening, the “polar bear rumpus.” Lined paper, spattered night skies, and washes of white paint over maps and algebraic equations infuse Ward’s cut-paper, pencil and watercolor collages with texture and interest. Her brilliantly hued days contrast with the midnight blue journey and return home. The plot comes full circle when a new message is found. Although this has a stronger storyline than the author’s When Blue Met Egg (2012), a book that felt like a vehicle for collages of New York City, Ward’s dramatic arc is weak, and the voice needs stylistic development.
Enjoy for the subject matter and design, search elsewhere for heart and character. (Picture book. 3-5)