Book Review – The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

books, reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve been meaning to get this book for ages because it just sounded perfect. The fact that it was winning all of the awards only convinced me further. I think hyped books for older readers tend to be disappointing for me. However, hyped kids’ books are usually as good as we’re told. So, I was excited to read this book. Partly because of something I did at school. We were asked to write a leaflet about an animal and I chose bears. I went into so much detail that I became a bit obsessed with bears. I’ve never forgotten it and, as I found out when I discovered it recently, the leaflet holds up. The clipart isn’t great but the rest is gold. So, I reckon younger me would have loved this book and I’m reading it for her.

 There’s been a bit of a trend for environmental-themed books for children recently and I love it. The Last Bear takes us to the artic along with April and her dad. They are going to be staying on Bear Island for 6 months because of her father’s work. He is going to be manning a weather station and the pair will be completely alone. April hopes that it will mean she gets to spend more time with her father but the reality is very different. She had dreams of sledging and playing in the snow. Instead, she wanders the island on her own. At least until she sees the polar bear. A solitary beast that has become stuck on the island with no food. This discovery leads April to the terrible truth about global warming and what it has meant for these amazing creatures. Can she do anything to help the poor bear get home?

There is a deeper message to this book as it focuses on the consequences of global warming. However, it’s not too heavy-handed. The message is told in such a charming way that it doesn’t feel too preachy. Instead, you get to enjoy the story of a young girl and a polar bear. There are fantastical elements to the book as the book sidesteps the polar bear’s true nature. Although, there’s nothing better than human/animal friendships. Watching April’s tentative steps to befriend the bear is lovely and you instantly fall in love with both of them. April is the kind of character that so many children will relate to. She doesn’t feel like she completely fits in and prefers animals to humans.

It’s not just environmental issues at the heart of The Last Bear. The book deals with more personal issues. April’s mother died when she was 4 and her father has thrown himself into his work. So, April doesn’t get the attention that she deserves. The story of her friendship with the bear runs alongside her attempt to reconnect with her father. She just needs him to listen to her for a change. Certainly, younger readers will understand the feeling that their parents don’t listen to them.

This is a lovely and emotional story of loneliness, friendship and grief. April’s feelings about her mother are projected onto the wild animal. She sees herself in the creature and is pushed to help him. As April helps the bear get home, he helps her become more confident. He helps her find her voice… or her roar. This is a book with so much depth but it never goes too far. It remains a fun and cute read. Something that is really helped by the illustrations. I’m glad I finally read it. 

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