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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sea Bear: A Journey of Survival. Written and illustrated by Lindsay Moore. Greenwillow, Harper. 2019. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"I learned to be patient long ago
from my polar bear mother -

to be patient when hunting,
     to be patient with weather,
          to be patient in darkness.

A polar bear can outwait almost
anything -

     seals ... "

Watching this polar bear as she shows readers what it is like to depend on changing seasons in the Arctic is mesmerizing. The artwork, done using graphite, watercolor, drawing inks, conte crayon and color pencils, is stunning. It offers the reader a chance to imagine the cold of the Arctic landscape and the beauty of its endless skies, as well as the passage of time from deep cold to summer warmth, then back again.

The polar bear trudges across a barren landscape under a starry sky. Despite endless patience for catching prey, waiting out storms, and long periods of darkness, there is one more thing a polar bear needs: a  place to stand. When spring comes and the ice breaks apart, she must use all of her skills to get from one floe to another, always moving toward food while also taking time to rest. Throughout summer, the ice thins and hunting becomes much more difficult. The bear has nowhere to plant her huge paws. She is in for long periods of time.

A keen sense of smell convinces her that a beach will offer safety.

"I am a sea bear. I am made to paddle -
under wandering Arctic terns,
past lonely icebergs bobbing at the surface,
and above the deep, dark shadow
of a slow Arctic shark."

The reader senses the exhaustion of the long swim, the terror of a storm, and the need to keep paddling if she is to make land. Three days it takes before she feels the support of land beneath her feet. Land is not her natural habitat. A lack of sea ice forces her to wait out the summer. She waits and hopes. Food is scarce. As summer ends, the sea freezes and the bear makes her way inland, using the time in a den to care for and teach her cubs the lessons they will need to survive.

The story is told simply and beautifully with a rhythmic tone; it provides factual knowledge of the female bear and her life through one complete year. The first person voice given the bear is very effective. The Arctic landscape is beautifully rendered. Endnotes provide additional  facts about Sea Ice and Polar Bears, and further notes on other animals that live above and below the ice.

The author pens a plea to her readers:

"Polar bears have a remarkable life story. They are bears that make their home on top of the ocean. Their future, though, is tied to the future of sea ice. I wanted to give polar bears a voice, to tell what life is like for a bear in a changing Arctic landscape, and to inspire all of us to make changes in our own lives to slow climate change and help care for our earth."

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