cover image Snow Bear

Snow Bear

Jean Craighead George, George, Born. Hyperion Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0456-6

Minor and George (Morning, Noon, and Night) team up again, this time to produce a sort of Arctic Blueberries for Sal. When a small Eskimo girl explores a huge block of ice, she befriends a polar bear cub who has wandered away from his mother. With virtually identical reactions, the girl's older brother and the polar bear mother watch the youngsters cavort: ""Up on the ice ship Vincent watches Bessie playing with Snow Bear. Little cubs are friendly. Up on the ice ship, Nanuq watches Snow Bear playing with Bessie. Children are friendly."" When a dangerous male polar bear appears, they all run for safety. Set against exquisite ice-blue landscapes, Minor's tableaux are filled with drama and humor: winsome Bessie and stuffed-animal-cute Snow Bear turn somersaults, dance together and cuddle in a snow cave. But even with the glorious paintings and the very appealing premise, the story doesn't entirely succeed--the context isn't clear enough. Is it fantasy or true to life that a child can safely receive a kiss on the nose from a polar bear cub? Or that a child and cub can mimic each other's movements so closely? Minor and George blur the line between observation and personification of the bear characters. Sometimes, too, the text sounds artificial in its overlay of Eskimo wisdom, as when Vincent recalls his father's advice (""The Arctic cannot be rushed. If we wait, the answers will come""). Kids may enjoy imagining themselves in Bessie's place, but the book seems to be setting up a scenario rather than delivering a full-fledged story. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)