Linda Woolverton, Mose Richards, Kristin Gore. National Geographic Society, $30 (159pp) ISBN 978-1-4262-0065-6
A companion to the National Geographic movie of the same name, this nature title has the same lovingly detailed photography (and producers) as 2005's surprise box office behemoth March of the Penguins; this time out, they're on the opposite end of the planet for a look at Arctic mammals, focusing on the three formative years a polar bear cub and a walrus calf spend under the care of their dedicated mothers, preparing for independent life in the unforgiving environment. The ""characters"" are essentially composites of many mamas and babies whom the photographers followed while gathering 800 hours of film, but the rest of the environment is hardly neglected; also included are stunning photos of harp seals and their pups, foxes, whales, birds, caribou and others. Even more stunning are the landscape photos, which capture the grand, overwhelming terrain of rock, ice, snow and water. Laudably, these photos communicate well the singular power of the polar landscape, something difficult to put into words for those who haven't been. One photo of lone bear looking out over an expanse of open water and floating icebergs conveys a sharp sense of the region's solitude, alienation and delicacy, while drifting towers of ice backed by immobile mountains of rock evoke the spectre of a future in which these landscapes have melted away. Truly eye-opening, this beautiful book serves as an inspiring prod to save what's left of the icescape while there is still time.
Reviewed on: 07/23/2007