cover image Ida, Always

Ida, Always

Caron Levis, illus. by Charles Santoso. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-2640-4

Inspired by two polar bears that lived in New York City’s Central Park Zoo several years ago, Levis (Stuck with the Blooz) takes readers on a reassuring emotional journey that explores friendship, love, and loss. Polar bears Ida and Gus spend their days playing, splashing, and listening to the sounds of the city, but everything changes when Ida becomes terminally ill. Echoing the stages of grief, the friends stomp and snarl upon learning the bad news, then come to an exhausted, quiet acceptance as they begin to share Ida’s dwindling time. Levis’s characterization of caring, supportive friends is spot on; the bears give each other “a moment alone” when needed, and express how much they’ll miss each other. The description of Ida’s passing is brief, poignant, and gentle, as is Gus’s adjustment to life without his best friend. Santoso (I Don’t Like Koala) creates gauzy backgrounds featuring the city skyline and the zoo’s greenery, and his slightly anthropomorphic bears convey a wealth of feeling through their expressive eyes, smiles, and body language. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Emily Mitchell, Wernick & Pratt Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Feb.) [/em]