REVIEWED BY TRICIA GILBEY
Hannah Gold (HarperCollins: 2021)
Time stopped as I read Hannah Gold’s beautiful book, The Last Bear, and when I looked up darkness had fallen and the afternoon had melted away. I’d travelled through Hannah’s story to Bear Island in the Arctic, where the melting sea ice is causing polar bears to become separated and stranded. And I was with April with every single step she took in her rainbow wellies.
Gentle, empathetic but determined April must travel to Bear Island with her scientist father so that her Dad can log the weather conditions to monitor the melting ice. April is used to being ignored by her father since her mother’s death, but she thinks that perhaps their solitude will bring them closer. Sadly, it’s not to be, and as April roams the deserted, snowy island alone, she meets a polar bear who is starving and all by himself too.
Bravely, April tries to help, and I was captivated by the way their friendship grows as Bear begins to trust her. I found April’s efforts to overcome all obstacles to get food to him, involving raiding their own carefully rationed store cupboard, amusing and moving. Levi Pinfold’s illustrations show this wonderful friendship unfold in gorgeous detail as April explores the island and has a wonderful time with Bear. April wishes her father would DO something rather than just measure things though, because she needs help to help Bear. Finally, she finds her bravest, loudest ROAR and sets out to solve her problems herself.
This book says to children that they can do things to save this beautiful planet we live on, and its many creatures and habitats, however small they may feel. I felt moved by April’s determination and stubbornness and ability to use her imagination to solve problems and make herself and Bear and her father happy again. A magical,heart-warming, transporting read.