A Polar Bear in the Snow – Mac Barnett; art by Shawn Harris

  A Polar Bear in the Snow – Mac Barnett; art by Shawn Harris. Candlewick Press, 2020. 9781536203967 

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

 Genre: picture book

 What did you like about the book? A polar bear appears in stages on a textured paper background, and readers follow along as the bear explores its Arctic habitat.  The sparse narration wonders where the bear is going – not to visit the seals (“He is not hungry”) or hunker in a cave (“His fur protects him from the storm”), but to play in the sea.  He emerges from the water and pads away, leaving only pawprints cut out of the paper snow, and when the narrator asks where he will go next, the answer is, “Who knows?”

This is a very simple book, with just a touch of Barnett’s winking humor, made stunning by the cut paper collage illustrations.  Layers of white depict the quiet Arctic landscape; the polar bear and other inhabitants (seals, arctic foxes, and a human) are placed within the layers to provide depth and perspective.  When the bear arrives at the blue water’s edge and sees his reflection, the text simply says “Oh!” which is likely to be the reader’s reaction in that spot as well, as the bright color is almost startling after so much white.  The following pages of blue water and frolicking polar bear provide some fun before returning to stark whiteness and the polar bear’s retreating hind end is sure to make young readers giggle.  The question-and-answer format of the text makes it an ideal interactive readaloud or read-together choice.  

Anything you did not like about the book?  The seals are extremely cute and the implication that the polar bear would have eaten them might be unsettling for younger readers.

 To whom would you recommend this book? K-2 teachers working on habitat units with their students will love this for a readaloud, and art teachers could definitely find a wintery project to tie in with it.  

Who should buy this book? Preschools, public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 11/6/2020

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