I don't know who decided that 27th February is Polar Bear Day, but I don't need an excuse to celebrate polar bears using literature. Of course it is probably more pertinent to study polar bears in the Northern Hemisphere where you are much more likely to see a polar bear, e
ven if it is only in a zoo, but with global warming and the shrinking of the ice caps, it is important that children read about animals that are at risk. Polar bears are special and the quality of children's books about them make them even more special.
To date there was always Liliana Stafford's Snow Bear, Nicola Davies' Ice Bear, and Sally Grindley's Polar Star, but then last year I added the Hatkoff's Knut and Christa Holtei's Nanuk Flies Home to the library.
Shopping for the library at the beginning of this year though, I found a plethora of new titles that were published in 2009 and these you have to see for the sheer brilliance of the illustrations:
* The Last Polar Bear by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor
This story is idealistic and improbable but touching and message-laden. It has beautiful illustrations and some very interesting vocabulary such as 'flailing' and 'squall'.
* Big Bear Little Brother by Carl Norac and Kristin Oftedal
This story too, is about a small boy befriending a polar bear but here the relationship is playful and protective. Norwegian Oftedal's illustrations capture the vastness and coldness of the setting while still showing the warmth and exuberance of the c
hild and bear's relationship. This story doesn't deal necessarily with the plight of polar bears.
* My Little Polar Bear by Claudia Rueda
This story has a very simple text and is designed for very young readers but it is beautiful. Colombian Rueda's combination of blue and white text and illustration begs you to touch it and makes the relationship between mother and cub so poignant. there is a little 'sparkle' which will make it easy to sell to children.
And lastly, not for its illustrations but for the concept and the information on polar bears...
Once I Was a Cardboard Box...But Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears by Anton Poitier and Melvyn Evans (Five Mile Press).