Gold, Hannah

The Last Bear

(2) 4-6 Illustrated by Kate Slater. April's widowed father is a scientist who has taken a temporary job at Bear Island's weather station, above the Arctic Circle. Her initial hope that moving to a remote location would lead her dad to pay more attention to her quickly disappears when she realizes that, just as at home, he will be working all the time. April wants to meet a polar bear on the island, although she knows it's unlikely, since melting sea ice has kept bears away from the island for some time. Nevertheless, she spends weeks on the lookout for bears--and she does find one, trapped and injured by garbage from the ocean. She feels an immediate connection to the creature, eventually getting close enough to cut off the debris and treat its wound. As her relationship with her father becomes more strained, she grows closer to the bear. After she figures out how it became trapped on the island (the bear doesn't speak, but April is able to understand it on an emotional level), she decides to take it home to Svalbard, more than two hundred miles of open ocean away. Gold has an ear for descriptive language ("April could feel the power of it, the way sound travels invisibly through the air and shifts the membrane of the universe somehow"), and the close narration of April's story keeps readers intimately engaged. The book's environmental message is clear without being overpowering, and the combination of internal and external conflicts allows the story to be quiet and dramatic at the same time.


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