cover image A Polar Bear in the Snow

A Polar Bear in the Snow

Mac Barnett, illus. by Shawn Harris. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0396-7

Barnett (Paolo, Emperor of Rome) and Harris (Everyone’s Awake) open with an empty sheet of heavily textured white paper. “There is a polar bear in the snow,” the text reads, and a page turn reveals a few delicate charcoal marks: the bear’s black snout emerges (“he lifts his nose/ to sniff the air”). A reframe reveals the polar bear’s huge body, rendered in graceful curves of stiff white paper. “Where is he going?” Barnett asks. Subsequent spreads show the seals that the bear is not going to visit (“He is not hungry”) and the cave he is not going to hunker down in (“His fur protects him from the storm”). In photographed collages, the shadows of superimposed forms offer a sense of depth and even distance. The polar bear approaches the sea, leaps in, and dives and spins. One mesmerizing spread views the bear deep underwater, sun shining through the depths, surrounded by fish. Barnett’s humor, just right for littlest readers, adds warmth, while Harris concentrates on the elemental beauty of Arctic life with minimalist forms and simple textures that contrast the fragility of the paper with the strength of the bear. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)