As my last Perfect Picture Book post of 2018, I wanted to feature a new picture book that I first learned about from two friends who had interviewed the author and reviewed the book, that concerns welcoming others in a very kid-friendly way, and that is full of wintry fun. I think I’ve succeeded! And, as it’s my last post of 2018, I want to wish all who celebrate a blessed Christmas and everyone a wonderful New Year! See you in 2019!
Title: Polar Bear Island
Written By: Lindsay Bonilla
Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos
Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2018
Suitable for Ages: 3 and up
Themes/Topics: inclusivity; polar bears; penguins; differences; immigration; welcoming others
POLAR BEAR ISLAND was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.
But Kirby waddled where the wind blew, and today she was floating toward paradise.
When a penguin lands on Polar Bear Island, shares new items and ideas, and then her family joins her, the polar bears are happy to try the newcomers’ treats, except Mayor Parker, at least at first.
Links to Resources:
- Check out the maze, word search, and other activities in the Activity Kit;
- Become an AmBEARssador and welcome newcomers, learn about other countries, and much more;
- Check out the Discussion Guide for more ways to explore the themes in Polar Bear Island;
- Enjoy some wintry fun: sledding, skiing, ice skating, hot cocoa, and maybe even a snow cone or two. Like Kirby and the penguins, you even could design your own wintry gear.
Why I Like this Book:
Polar Bear Island is a fun book to read and reread, but it contains an important message about welcoming others, too. Kids, like young polar bears, are often open to new ideas and new friends. But narrow-minded adults, or polar bear mayors, may have other ideas and try to keep things always the same or to themselves. But when the newcomers come to the rescue, even a grumpy old bear can’t resist.
Among the many picture books about immigration and welcoming newcomers I’ve read (and regular readers know that is many), I think Polar Bear Island is one of the better ones for younger children to help build empathy for newcomers, as it provides concrete examples of how newcomers enrich communities, and it shows how ridiculous and wrong grumpy old bears (and people) can be. I think kids especially will enjoy reading about the penguins’ inventions that are fun to say and try to picture (or even make). Who doesn’t love “Flipper Slippers”? Or a sled that’s a bed?
Villalobos’ illustrations are equally fun and child-friendly. And although the setting is a white snow-covered island set in a blue sea inhabited by, you guessed it, white polar bears, Villalobos manages to include many bright and colorful details, like the bright Flipper Slippers and hats on every penguin.
A Note about Craft:
In Polar Bear Island, Bonilla makes difficult subjects, immigration and welcoming “others”, accessible to young children. How does she do it? First, she introduces readers to Parker, the mayor, who is a caricature of a character: the proverbial grumpy old bear who even underlines “other” in the sign that states they are not welcome. Bonilla then sets up an absurd situation: a penguin, normally found in the Antarctic, travels by boat (suitcase in flipper) to the Artic. As the pair, and others, interact, Bonilla slips in playful language, like Flipper Slippers, my all-time favorite. Finally, Bonilla and the team at Sterling created an awesome Activity Kit, a Discussion Guide for teachers, parents and librarians, and even an AmBEARssadors Program – sign me up!
Visit Bonilla’s website to learn more about this storyteller and children’s author; see also an interview and review of Polar Bear Island at Maria Marshall’s The Picture Book Buzz, and an interview and review by Kathy Halsey at the Grog.
Villalobos is a Spanish illustrator. See more of her work at her website.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!