Book Title & Alexandra's Review

How to Catch a Polar Bear by Stacy DeKeyser

4th Grade and Up

It’s 1948, and twelve-year-old Nick is ready for the best summer ever. He’s going to hang out with his best pal, Ace, and maybe with Penny too—she is a girl, but she has a great throwing arm! Then things get wild when a polar bear escapes from Milwaukee’s city zoo and appears right on his block. They’re all going to have to keep their eyes open now.
But Nick’s grand plans start to crumble when Ace gets a paper route, and Penny decides to share it with him. Now, they’re never around. Nick is working at his Uncle Spiro’s frozen custard shop, but at least he gets free all-you-can-eat frozen custard. When Uncle Spiro opens a custard stand at the zoo, Nick volunteers to help—if that polar bear escapes again, he’ll have a front-row seat!
Only their competitor, Happy Harold, opens a stand of his own. Now Nick is scrambling to keep their customers, especially because Happy keeps playing dirty tricks. When Penny discovers that someone may have intentionally let the polar bear out, Nick suspects it might be Happy. With mysteries to solve and a whole zoo full of monkey business, it looks like Nick’s summer won’t be so boring after all!


I was not expecting a sequel to “The Rhino in Right Field.” Like the first book, it took me forever to get my hands on it. And again, it was worth the wait!

(See my review here:


While “The Rhino in Right Field” focuses on baseball, this book focuses on frozen custard and the zoo. It reminded me of my favorite Stuart Gibbs series ‘FunJungle.’


I’m sad to say that people’s zoo etiquette hasn’t changed in 80 years. People littered back in the 1940s, and people still litter now. There were/are signs to not feed the animals, and they were/are ignored. Throughout the story, it is said and shown the dangers and consequences of feeding animals human food. Now, I feel bad about feeding the squirrels at the park peanuts. I like to think there’s a difference between feeding unsalted peanuts to squirrels and marshmallows to polar bears. Still, both acts aren’t good for the animals.


I got a kick out of the feud between Happy Harold and Uncle Spiro. Healthy competition between businesses is a good thing. It motivates them to improve and come up with new ideas. But you don’t have to be hostile or resort to dirty tricks like Happy does.


The people of Milwaukee sure do love their frozen custard. It’s been a Milwaukee favorite since the 1930s, and there are still so many frozen custard stands. According to Nick, “There are plenty of people in this town who consider frozen custard a nutritious meal: You’ve got your dairy, your eggs, and – if you order a banana split – your fruit.” I find this hilarious. Now, I want to go to Milwaukee and stop at as many frozen custard stands as possible.


There are a few old-timey terms throughout the story that I’m going to explain here. ‘Bubbler’ is another word for water fountain. The term ‘soda jerk’ was a nickname for the soda clerk who operated soda fountains. The title was inspired by the jerking action a server used to swing the soda fountain handle back and forth when adding soda water to a fountain beverage. I like the word jerk. It’s fun to say.


I have my fingers crossed that Stacy DeKeyser will write a third book. I’m invested in this 1940s Milwaukee setting now.

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