Journey of the Pale Bear
Author: Susan Fletcher
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018 by McElderry Books
Summary: The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.
Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?
About the Author: SUSAN FLETCHER is the acclaimed author of the Dragon Chronicles as well as the award-winning Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, and Falcon in the Glass. Ms. Fletcher lives in Bryan, Texas. To read about the fascinating story behind the inspiration for Journey of the Pale Bear, visit her website, SusanFletcher.com
Praise: ★”A stupendous coming-of-age tale stuffed with adventure and laced with deeper questions.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Review: When I first read about this book it sounded pretty good, enough for me to pick it up, but it was SO GOOD! Like so good that even though it was a school week, I read it in 2 days!
First, it takes place in a time period that is hardly ever in books which is fascinating. I found myself looking up some of the history that was mentioned in the book, but the author did a great job of making sure that not knowing about the details of the time period wouldn’t effect the reading experience.
Second, it looks at animal treatment and truly makes you think about how an animal feels when it is put in captivity. Although told only in a realistic manner, the animal is such an integral part of the story that its behaviors are shared in detail allowing it to become a full character within the book.
Third, did you know there used to be a menagerie in the Tower of London? Me neither! But that took me down a suck hole of Google research. So fascinating!
Fourth, wow! The adventure is EPIC: sailing, bullies, pirates, shipwrecks, storms. It never stops!
So in review: Fascinating, thought-provoking, curious, and action-packed. All in all, a book I truly recommend and enjoyed.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The main home for this book will be in libraries; however, I can definitely see portions of it being used in classrooms.
- First, I could see it being used during a history lesson to discuss the politics and war shared in the book.
- Second, there are so many scenes that could be pulled out as mentor texts for writing. I’ll share some of my favorites below.
- Third, I would love to see some creative writing done from the bear’s point of view.
- Fourth, it is a fascinating look at animal treatment and how it has (and has not) changed over the years.
But in the end, it belongs in kids’ hands! Get it there!
- Why did Arthur agree to take care of the bear?
- What examples throughout the book show that the bear loved and trusted Arthur?
- What does the whole story of a polar bear being sent from Norway to England show you about the respect of animals during the time period of the novel?
- How did Arthur’s involvement make the bear’s life better?
- Do you believe that the doctor cared about Arthur as he said he did? Explain.
- How did Arthur earn the respect of the sailors on the ship?
“Its eyes, small and dark, were alert, curious, aware. I felt the faint stirring of its breath against my cheeks. I drew in the rich, ripe scent of bear until I seemed to sink down below the surface of it, drowning. From somewhere far away I heard Hauk and the lantern boy arguing, but the sounds fell away behind the throbbing in my ears and the thrill of the running-hum in my limbs.
The bear rumbled deep in its throat.
I rose to my feet, stepped back, and felt the iron bars press cold against me. I kept my eyes fixed on the pale, wide face, as if the force of my gaze could prevent the bear from lunging at me with its enormous paws or raking me with is claws–claws that I could see out of the corner of my eyes, massive claws, claws from a nightmare of monsters.” (Chapter 3)
“Before we saw the bear, we heard her—a heavy rhythmic read, a thump, a clang. Beyond the reek of fish, I sniffed out the feral musk of her.
We crept through the dark warehouse–the doctor, the captain, and I–until I made out a large, pale, moving form in the deep gloom ahead. The doctor motioned us to stop, and we watched from behind a stack of crates and bales. The bear was as tall as a pony, longer than a caribou, and as wide as two bulls. Back and forth she paced in her cage, and back and forth again, her head swinging side to side on her long neck, the convex bow of her snout lending her an air of nobility. The bear-smell now filled the air, and the stench of dung as well. A surge of fear rose up in me, turning my bones and sinews to liquid.” (Chapter 6)
Read This If You Love: Seekers by Erin Hunter, The Vanishing Islands by Barry Wolverton, Pirates! by Celia Rees, The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and McElderry Books for providing a copy for giveaway!**