There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to a faraway Arctic outpost.
But one night, April catches a glimpse of something distinctly bear-shaped loping across the horizon. A polar bear who shouldn’t be there—who is hungry, lonely, and a long way from home.
When I first read this book’s summary, I thought the setting was of a distant future where polar bears are extinct, and a girl finds the last one. This story is actually about a twelve-year-old girl and her father, who travel to the Arctic Circle to live on Bear Island for six months to work at a weather station conducting meteorological research on how global warming is affecting the Arctic region. While her father works, April explores the arctic island alone, where she finds and befriends the last polar bear on the island, which she appropriately names “Bear.”
The question you might be asking “what kind of parent would let their kid wander an ice-cold island alone, let alone befriend a wild polar bear.” The answer: April’s father. The man is so distracted by his work and the loss of his wife several years ago that he has no idea what his daughter is doing or where she is at any time, day or night.
With April’s neglectful father and Bear being the only polar bear on the island, the two find companionship in each other. The otherworldly arctic setting and April’s friendship with the polar bear give this story a fantasy vibe. I think this book would make for a beautiful heartfelt movie. I can just imagine the scene where she’s riding on the polar bear, the camera pandering around them and zooming in on April’s smiling face.
This story’s main themes are climate change and environmental awareness using understandable scientific facts. April’s father’s job at the weather station is to, in layman’s terms, measure the temperature and weather patterns to gauge any different year to year. Personally, I think scientists should stop spending so much time measuring how fast the ice is melting and concentrate more brainpower on slowing the process down. The question is no longer “how is climate change happening?” The question should be, “how do we stop it?” Reversing climate change isn’t something that can happen overnight or even over the next several centuries. Maybe someday, there will be a way to reverse the damage we’ve done, but until then, we can at least try to slow it down.
Bear Island is a real place, and so is the weather station. I’m grateful that this book includes a map of Bear Island. To learn more about the real Bear Island and the plight of the polar bears, read the Author’s Note.
As a bonus, check out this picture of a polar bear:
Even though polar bears, and bears in general, look sweet and cuddly, you should never approach one.
As another bonus, here are a few YouTube videos featuring polar bears I found:
Polar Bears 101 Nat Geo Wild: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zRGzlWqce4
Polar Bears play with Spy Cam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7iyGW7EqI
Polar Bear cub plays with snowballs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk9kEpeM_8U
The message to take away from this story is that you don’t have to do some big-scale act to make a difference. No matter how small you are or how small your action is, you can make a difference. Small actions are better than no action at all.