Jenni Desmond: The Polar Bear

Illustrated by the author

Published by Enchanted Lion Books, NY, 2016

We bought a polar bear many years ago for our seven-year-old daughter. It was creamy white, as long as the width of a single bed, as cuddly as my daughter and so soft. Over the years, Snowy has been a pillow, a listener, an observer, a comfort, and a companion. Even today, more grey than creamy, there is something majestic about Snowy as he rests quietly at the end of the bed, his familiar place in our home for more than 20 years.

It’s sad to think that during those years, the real polar bears of this world have been fighting for survival whilst being hunted for sport and commercial interests. The most imminent threat for them is climate change and the effects of early melting of snow and ice in the Arctic during summer and the later freezing during autumn. These trends affect their ability to hunt, the availability of food and the time it takes for them to put on enough weight to survive the summer months going into winter.

Jenni Desmond has written and illustrated this gorgeous picture book about polar bears. We begin reading about these endangered animals through the eyes of a young girl as she picks this picture book off the shelf and begins to imagine herself in the polar bear’s world.

We learn about their Arctic habitat, how the polar bears spend their days, what they like to eat and how their bodies keep them insulated from freezing temperatures. Did you know that while the coat of a polar bear can be yellow or grey, the colour of its skin is black?

Adult male polar bears can weigh around 1,000 pounds. To help us understand how heavy that is, there is a wonderful two page spread with illustrations of twenty children around 7 years old. If you were to pile them up, that’s how heavy an adult polar bear could be.

There is so much more to learn: hunting techniques, life span, extraordinary sense of smell and sight, as well as how a polar bear manages motherhood, its life span in the wild, and how you can figure out its age from counting the rings inside its tooth!

The final page shows our young reader curled up with a mother polar bear and her cubs, it reminded me so much of my daughter with her bear.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature polar bears, some fictional, some humorous and some full of facts to amaze the most curious minds:

Polar Bear, Polar Beat, What Do You Hear by Eric Carle

Where Bear? by Sophy Henn

Love Matters Most by Mij Kelly Illustrated by Gerry Turley

No Place Like Home
by Ronojoy Ghosh

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour by Robin & Beck Feiner

The Very Hungry Bear
by Nick Bland

A Splendid Friend, Indeed
by Suzanne Bloom

Virgil & Owen by Paulette Bogan

A Polar Bear in the Snow
by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Shawn Harris

If Polar Bears Disappeared
by Lily Williams

The Rainbow Bear
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Michael Foreman

That’s Not My Polar Bear
by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells

Lily and the Polar Bears
by Jion Sheibani

Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer

Polar Bear’s Underwear
by Tupera Tupera

Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears by Jessica Olien

Ice Bear: in the steps of the polar bear by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Gary Blythe

Sea Bear by Lindsay Moore

The Bear Report by Thyra Heder

Roly Poly by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Jane Dyer

Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis Illustrated by Jarvis

Polar Bears by Mark Newman

Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

Claire Saxby: Iceberg

Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

Published by Allen & Unwin, NSW, 2021

Like many unique environments, the flora and fauna of that southern, icy and ever- changing continent of Antarctica is threatened by pollution, global warming and climate change. This picture book helps us to understand what we might lose if sea ice continues to diminish across this vast and seemingly uninhabitable land.

Following the life cycle of an iceberg as it shears off a glacier in spring, we are encouraged to look closely at what appears to be, at first glance, an empty continent.  As summer nears, animals appear underwater and on shore: leopard seals, penguins, krill, terns, cormorants, humpback whales, squid and orca. All of them dependant on one another and the ice that surrounds them, for food and a place to rest, eat, mate and reproduce.

The illustrations in this picture book have been made using a combination of water colour, acrylic paint, collage, pencil, ink and digital aids. It is wonderful to see so many different shades of blue. The central pages fold outwards to a double spread revealing some of the creatures living in the ocean. Unfolding it, helps us to reflect upon the immensity of this continent, which is almost twice the size of Australia, by that feeling that it is almost too big to hold on your lap!

Accompanying the illustrations, the text is informative, thoughtful and expressed with poetic clarity. For younger readers, visual imagery is captured with creative descriptions:

Terns wheel overhead. Blue-eyed cormorant too, their wingspans wider than outstretched arms….

Penguins dive deep for fish. Seals dive deeper to twitch-whisker hunt.

For older readers, there are enough hints in the text to embark upon their own research and investigate some of the complexities of this fragile ecosystem:

The iceberg is flat-topped, sharp and angular and carries ancient weather in its layers of ice-clothing; a coat for each year volcanoes blew and black ash fell like snow.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that delve into the problems of global warming and climate change:

Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux

The Great Kapok Tree
by Lynne Cherry

The Tantrum that Saved the World by Megan Herbert
Illustrated by Michael E. Mann

The Lazy Friend by Ronan Badel

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh

The Trouble With Dragons
by Debi Gliori

Stand up! Speak Up!
by Andrew Joyner

Window by Jeannie Baker

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish
by Michael Foreman

Greta Thunberg
by Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrated by Anke Weckmann

One World by Michael Foreman

Curious George Plants a Tree by Margret & H.A. Rey

Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

A Little Paper Caper
by Oliver Jeffers

The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour by Beck & Robin Feiner

Who Makes a Forest?
by Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Carolina Rabei

The Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le

The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean by Deborah Diesen Illustrated by Dan Hanna