cover image The Last Bear

The Last Bear

Hannah Gold, illus. by Kate Slater. HarperCollins, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-304107-3

Though debut author Gold conveys the danger of approaching polar bears, this lightly fantastical tale will have readers dreaming of an ursine friend of their own. Ever since her mother’s death seven years before this book’s start, April Wood, 11, has lived alone with her neglectful father, whose job at a nearby university researching weather patterns makes for an unpredictable schedule. When he secures a six-month-long position measuring temperatures for the Norwegian government on secluded Bear Island, April has nothing but a set of encyclopedias to keep her busy in the arctic circle. But sensitive April, who knows the key to making animals feel safe lies in listening to them, has a knack for befriending wild animals. When she meets an injured polar bear, she helps him heal and regain weight. As the two grow closer and embark on adventures together, April soon learns that the melting ice caps mean Bear can’t travel to other areas with polar bear populations. Slater’s full-page b&w illustrations amplify tension by visualizing majestic or dramatic scenes, often featuring April and Bear. While Gold’s conservationist message is occasionally heavy-handed, fans of Pax will appreciate this endearing story of interspecies friendship, which will inspire young eco-activists. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)