A lost polar bear strikes fear into the woodland animals until his extraordinary efforts to return home bring help, hope, and understanding.
A lone figure, balanced on a miniscule shard of ice, floats toward land under a moonlit sky. It covers itself in leaves and finds shelter in an old, abandoned cave, while the native animals watch and discuss, scared of the unknown. Every day they gossip, naming him Leaf, but none talk to the mysterious creature until Leaf attempts to fly home. The crows rescue him, and the animals promise to tell Leaf’s story, so no polar bear will “ever get lost again.” The illustrations, done in pencil, pen, wash, and paint with collage, are infused with a European folk-art aesthetic. Dieckmann plays with scale and proportion for dramatic and psychological effect. Grand spreads contrasting the mountains and sea offer a wide, dreamlike sensibility, whereas the portrait of Leaf in his cave brings forth the bear’s emotional isolation. Skilled linework provides depth and detailed information; and the artist’s appealing patterning acts almost like hieroglyphs, with the green plants and vibrant flowers indicating a foreign world to the bear, compared to the blue environment of his home. A timely story, one that yields multiple interpretations and meanings, from the “othering” of unfamiliar populations and those seeking refuge from a changing world to the impacts of climate change.
Dieckmann beautifully weaves together some of today’s most difficult themes into a deceptively simple tale. (Picture book. 4-8)