Cover Image: The Last Bear

The Last Bear

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The Last Bear is a beautifully written, heartwarming debut with a strong environmental message.  
Animal loving April accompanies her father to the remote, uninhabited Bear Island in the Arctic whilst he conducts his scientific research; however, due to the melting ice caps, the bears that once roamed Bear Island are long gone.  April spends many lonely days exploring while her father spends all his time working.  But one day, the unexpected happens - she finds a bear.  He is in a terrible state and she is his only hope.  Can she save him, and can he save her?
This is moving tale deftly explores: love and loss; family and friendship; climate change and conservation.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and know it will resonate with the children I teach..
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The Last Bear is Hannah Gold’s first book, and I’m sure it will soon become very popular and will be read for many years to come. Both the subject and the characters are so lovely that I am sure children, as well as adults, will read it with pleasure.

I have recently read such beautiful children’s books that if I were to choose a single genre that I would read until the end of my life, I would choose children’s books. And The Last Bear would be among the children’s books I would recommend. I recommend this book to children and adults because we need to remind ourselves over and over that children see, hear, know and therefore feel much more than we think.

The Last Bear describes the incredible friendship between April and a polar bear. On the one hand, it touches on global warming and its effects on the world; on the other hand, it touches on the devastating impact of a lost parent on both the child and the other parent. But it describes them in such a pleasant way that you are neither bored nor sad.

Bear Island is named after the polar bears who visited the island. However, due to melting glaciers, no bears have been seen on Bear Island in recent years because bears cannot reach the island without glaciers. April and her father settle on the island for six months for her father’s job to monitor the island’s weather. Although April is pleased that she will spend more time with her father and be the only two people on the island, her happiness vanishes after they arrive on the island. Because his father devotes himself entirely to his work and closes in his room, April is mostly alone.

On the one hand, we learn that his father has changed since her mother’s death and that laughter is not heard at home as before. Without waiting for her father to take care of her, April sets out to explore the island, and the adventure begins.

The depictions of nature in The Last Bear will take you to this cold island. You will feel what it is like to be friends with a polar bear while admiring the beauty of nature. You will, again and again, thank both nature and animals and want to do your best to fix the relationship between us. The Last Bear will make you feel hopeful and uplifted; it is a heartwarming book. Oh, and of course, you’ll want to find a plush polar bear (at least) and hug it a lot. I recommend The Last Bear to everyone, especially parents. We all need to read children’s books and remember how it feels to be a little more innocent.
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The Last Bear was one that I picked up on a whim, I liked the premise, and the cover is beautiful, but neither prepared me for just how much I loved this book. When I started reading, I couldn’t stop, and I stayed up to the early hours, completely and utterly enraptured by the story and characters that Gold has created here. It is hard to believe that this is a debut because it was perfect and beautifully poignant. April was a fantastic protagonist, her thoughts and feelings, relatable, believable and endearing and the friendship that she develops with the stranded Polar Bear was so beautifully written that it felt as though you are becoming friends with them too, and I loved the build-up to it, the learning to be together and to be themselves.
Learning to Roar.
   This is a book that will stay with you for a long time, I know I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It has a magic to it that will appeal to all ages, and in the current state of the world, there is so much in this book that needs to be heard. A powerful story with a living, beating heart at its centre.
I loved this so much that I immediately ordered a copy of it, and it will be a book that I return to many times.
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The Last Bear blew me away. From its gorgeous illustrations and descriptions of the snowy wilderness to the adventure of April and Bear. A story of sadness, family, love, loss and most of all, hope. My heart is filled with emotion.
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Bear Island is a remote Artic island and little April's new home, for the next few months. Her father has taken on a temporary role as the island's scientific researcher, measuring increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and disappearing polar ice caps. April understands the importance of her father's role and feels sick with anxiety at the thought of the destruction humans are wreaking upon the world, but that doesn't make her any less lonely right now. She longs for friendship and adventure, and the snowy setting surrounding her provides plenty of opportunity for the latter. Surprisingly, it also gives her the former as well, in the form of a very large, very white, and very furry acquaintance. 

Characters like April's are exactly why I love reading Middle Grade stories so much. She was fierce and feisty, independent, and idealistic. Her attitude resulted in more than one spot of trouble she found herself in, but it also ensured she got herself out of it, as well. 

Her father proved just as lovable, if less immediately likable. His growth across the novel was a lovely one to witness, and also ensured this different from the usual main character's arc witnessed in other similar stories I have read.

This remained such an important and emotional story, throughout. My heart broke along with April's at the plastic-strewn shorelines, diminishing species, and disappearing ice caps this featured. The polar bear that appeared upon one of April's adventures ensured this was not a wholly traumatic and sorrowful read, however. I can imagine it providing a whimsical yet educational reading experience for its target audience, as it appealed to this grown-up reader in a very similar way.
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Amazingly powerful tale of global destruction and a cry for help for our planet. April and her father find one last starving polar bear; can they work together to help save the bear and give some hope for the future. A must for all schools to buy.

Its hard to believe this is Hannah Gold's first novel, it is so strong ,with a clear message for children and adults the world over. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Penfold.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read it.
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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold⁣⁣
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The Last Bear is a very special middle grade book. One that skilfully walks the fine line between giving children a sense wonder and a need for action on behalf of the planet. ⁣⁣
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The story is full of adventure, exploration, longing, anger, loss and hope. I was totally drawn in by the polar bear, they are such magnificent creatures and sadly very close to extinction. ROAAAAR! ⁣⁣
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Like her late mother, April is gifted with an easy and intimate connection to animals. When her father accepts a job on a research station on Bear Island in the Arctic, April imagines all the adventures they can have there together. But her father is busy, distracted by his own grief and work and April is left to her own devices. ⁣⁣
During her exploration of the island, April finds a sad and hungry polar bear, stranded in the island as the ice has melted. So begins a beautiful friendship, roaring with anger and longing they discover their own courage, heal and open their hearts, standing up for themselves and the planet. ⁣⁣
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The Arctic is beautifully described and Hannah Gold takes you on a magical journey to one of the most stunning and at risk places in the planet. ⁣⁣
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Stories like this one are good places to open a conversation with a child about protecting our planet. I believe that teaching children about climate change is a balancing act between allowing them to experience the beauty and wonder of the natural world and finding appropriate and meaningful ways to take action. It shouldn’t be the job of an 8 year old to worry about the plastic in the ocean, it’s our job as adults to be great role models and good ancestors. ⁣⁣
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I finished this one last night but wanted to wait a bit before writing my review, and this one stayed with me and I think that's a sign of just how important and amazing a read this is.

This book follows April who joins her father to Bear Island in the Atlantic circle. With it just being them two on the island for six months, April goes exploring and comes across a stranded polar bear. She strikes up a friendship with this polar bear as it also explores various themes such as grief, climate change and protecting our planet and animals.

I loved the messages within this book, and I think if young minds read this, it will really open their eyes to the world and inspire them to want to help the planet. I think in using this friendship between April and Bear, we can understand more the impact we are having on this planet. I truly think, in the right hands, this book will do so much for the next generation in making this world a better place.

People will really enjoy the polar setting of Bear Island as it is a really isolating and icy place, but it was nice to explore it with April - I felt cold just reading about all that ice and snow. Really nicely written and I would definitely recommend this to children, one-hundred-percent.
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This was a beautifully written children's book that I would definitely recommend for KS2.

The language was so descriptive and emotive and the relationship between April and her father was completely heart-breaking. This book had so many layers and portrayed the effects of grief so well alongside the message about the protecting of our planet. 

I cannot believe this is a debut novel as it seems like such a timeless piece of work. I would definitely recommend this to teaching staff at my school too as I can already imagine the children producing wonderful work based on this.  

I cannot wait to see this with the images!
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Thank you for the advance copy of this book. It was a sheer delight to read and I certainly will be recommending this book for the readers. It was not only a joyous book but it touched on important environmental issues which will be a wonderful starting point for our book club group discussions.
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The brilliant books of 2021 just keep on coming. Again, this is another book that has been talked about extensively on social media platforms for a number of months. And if everything was to be believed, then Hannah Gold’s debut was going to be something rather special.

As I began reading The Last Bear in the plus thirty five degree heat of Melbourne this afternoon, I could not have been further from the Arctic circle and the polar ice caps. But Gold quickly transported me to a mysterious and unexplored wilderness, a remote location in the middle of the Barents Sea…Bear Island. So named for the polar bears that used to inhabit it, but they have since long gone, the melting of the ice caps has meant the location has become inaccessible. A struggle that is all too real for these wonderful creatures.

The story is that of eleven year old April Wood, an outsider and a bit of an oddball who doesn’t really fit in. April spends her time feeding foxes in the garden and climbing trees to talk to the animas. She shares the same special connection to animals that her mother did before she died several years ago. April only has fragments of memories of her mother and lives with her father with whom her relationship with has become ever more distant as he works long and odd hours at the university and is struggling to mourn the loss of his wife.

When her father is invited to work at a remote island to monitor the weather patterns, April is thrilled at the chance to explore a new place and spend time with her father. She has high hopes that they will be able to reconnect through walks, sledging and exploring. Unfortunately, April’s father quickly becomes lost in his work and is as distant as he has ever been so she finds herself heading off to explore the island by herself. Despite being told by everyone that no polar bears exist on the island, April is convinced that she has been something on the horizon and she soon finds herself embarking on the most wonderful of adventures.

This is a breath-taking adventure of friendship, love and about making sure your voice is heard. Hannah Gold has written a beautiful and heart-felt narrative that expertly explores and highlights the plight of the polar bear and the melting of the ice caps in the Arctic region and with a wonderful main protagonist readers should all feel empowered to do their bit to help. 

Like many children, April is aware of the problems and challenges that the planet faces and she is determined to make a difference. On her Arctic adventure she sees through her own eyes the effects of global warming and climate change and how the actions of humankind are destroying the natural world. So when she finds Bear, she knows that she has to help and return him to a place where he can thrive amongst his own. April and Bear share a special connection and gradually a wonderful relationship is forged over trust, respect, oatcakes and jars of peanut butter. Bear’s isolation and loneliness is replaced by warmth, friendship and a whole lot of love. And for April, she finds the best of friends and someone that she can confide in.

Themes of loss, bravery and courage are all overflowing throughout the narrative and as a reader it is impossible not to be pulled in by the raw emotions that the characters feel. The loud roars of Bear and April to convey their anger, sadness and frustration, and to let out their grief and sorrow that they have kept bottled up inside are particularly powerful.

Unfortunately, my electronic copy was missing the artwork by Levi Pinfold but I will be sure to buy a hard copy as soon as it comes out so I can savour what will no doubt be some stunning visuals.

There is no escaping that global warming and the climate crisis is a very big deal but Hannah Gold, April and Bear roar at the world that we if all do our bit then even the smallest of us can make the biggest difference. An empowering read.

Recommended for 8+.

With thanks to Harper Coliins Children's and Hannah Gold for the advanced reader copy that was received via Netgalley. Due for publication on 18th February 2021.
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I fell in love with this book with all my heart and can’t wait to share it with the world. 
Full of adventure and heart this is a fun and fierce eco-warrior story, with fresh writing and a unique plot. April is an absolute wonder of a character, with the  inner strength to do whatever it takes to save her polar bear. 
Beautifully powerful and empowering, it perfectly captures a child’s innate sense of justice and determination to make a difference. It belongs in every school and library where it can further inspire the generation that are already saving the world. One not to be missed.
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USA Edition Cover Art by Kate Slater 

Published by Harper, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishing

Wow! A story as unique as a snowflake.

This is one of those rare books that I instantly hope finds its way to every child's bookshelf, public library & every school in the land.

We are drawn into April's world & learn that usually her 'everyday life was an odd kind of normality'. She also preferred animals to humans. They were just kinder. She loves being outside & we learn quite a lot about young April from the outset, including the tragedy that took her mother away from the family. April was only 4 then. She's grown up with her father, a scientist specialising in meteorology. 

Dad's work hours are as unpredictable & erratic as the weather itself, so April has to find ways to keep busy - but she is used to it. Maybe time together in the Arctic with just her & Dad will mean more time to actually go on adventures together.
 
The fat envelope from Norway that was the start of Dad's decision to go to the Arctic Circle was definitely the beginning of April's best-ever adventure but it won't be anything like the adventure she expected. 

Everyone is so sure polar bears haven't lived on Bear Island for years. With the ice caps melting away, they've had to find other places to live & continue their struggle for survival. The struggle is real. 
A fleeting glimpse of *something* caught April by surprise & she couldn't help the excitement fizzing up in her mind. Could it really be a bear? She was determined to find out but she wishes she could share the excitement (& any other new discoveries) with her busy, preoccupied Dad. 

April accepts her Dad's ways & keeps herself busy but they're both a bit lost in grief. Dad's choice of music (played on his beloved record player) even lets April know how he is feeling.

She keeps exploring the island alone. The beach, Walrus Cove & even the few mountains there transformed her new 'outdoor time' & she LOVED it! One of her dreams came true. Which one? 

Can you even imagine having a picnic on a beach with a polar bear? Did it happen? Do you think polar bears like peanut butter?
April's life would never be the same after her arctic experiences & learning that she can make such a difference to the life & future of a polar bear. 

We discover a lot of factual elements in this wonderful story. Amongst others: the Arctic weather station exists - but operated by several trained personnel, not one man & his young daughter! Bear island is there too, as is Svalbard. 

There's endless opportunities for discussion in school or home settings from an environmental perspective, beautifully woven into this unique, captivating story. 

Hannah Gold has given the world a true gem with The Last Bear, her debut novel.
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Its 1.30am and I've devoured this book today. Utterly breathtaking from start to finish.  April Wood is a wonderful MC whose voice is so pure and strong. I loved her friendship with Bear and my heart sang with each new little development and recognition made. April's inner moral code is so well described and crafted - I am sure many children will identify with her determination to make SOMETHING happen despite the reluctance and sometimes ignorance of the adults around her. 
The Last Bear is a very special book- it left me in tears; but also with such a powerful sense of purpose. I know it will empower many children to make a difference - I have plans for this story to be a part of my teaching already. 
Thank you for letting me read this glorious book.
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A beautifully heartfelt and moving story with strong environmental themes. This story highlights the topic of global warming but also draws a picture of the wonderful connection that can develop between children and animals. 

When April heads to a remote Arctic island with her father, who is there for scientific research, she's not sure exactly what to expect. The trip to 'Bear Island' has the potential to be a very lonely trip - with endless summer Arctic nights, an isolated wilderness and, according to her father, no actual polar bears left on the island for April to spot despite its name.

Surprisingly, April encounters a real polar bear on the island when nobody else is around. Isolated from his family, the bear is starving and alone, with nobody to help him. Over time, a friendship develops and April becomes more determined than ever to save the bear. April knows that she will have to tread carefully in order to nourish the bear in secret and to navigate the issue of making the adults listen at the right moment. Before long, April realises that she is witnessing first-hand the impact of a much bigger global problem. With courage in the face of powerlessness, April embarks upon a quest to get the bear to safety in an adventure that she will never forget. 

There's something magical about this story - from the wonderfully evoked Arctic setting to the glorious friendship that develops between April and the bear. There often seems to be a direct connection and a deep instinct to care that exists between children and the natural world, a connection which is highlighted in the story through the way in which April is able to make a difference to the plight of the bear despite her feeling of powerlessness. Many young readers who really do care about climate change will relate to April's frustration at the inaction of many people, to her sadness at the plight of our precious planet and to her desire to make a difference even through the smallest of actions. 

This is a powerful and important story that will stir the heart through its gently unfolding message that places hope in the hands of the young to make a difference to the planet's future. 

Featured as a Spring 2021 Ones to Watch: https://www.booksfortopics.com/post/ones-to-watch-new-children-s-fiction-for-spring-2021.
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Everyone is talking about this upcoming release. The cover is stunning and Michael Morpurgo has labelled it 'unforgettable'. Therefore, when a review copy was posted on Netgalley, I clicked to request it without a second thought.

I'm so glad I did. In three words this book is raw, wild and all about connection; connection with the planet, with the elements and April's connection with her majestic Bear.

    When April's father lands a job recording temperatures on Bear Island, the pair travel north for a solitary six months in a snowy wilderness. With the ice-caps around the island having melted, polar bears can no longer reach it and the island is practically deserted.

    But April is certain there is one polar bear still living on the island...and when she is proved right, her life changes forever. Never before has she experienced such depth of friendship. With Bear stranded and struggling to survive, can April find a solution to save him before she has to say goodbye?

This is exactly the type of book I have been hoping to share with my seven-year-old reluctant reader. Despite it's icy setting, this story will warm the cockles of your heart as well as filling it with sorrow. The poignant themes of loss and grief-something both April and Bear have experienced-are beautifully woven into the story and Hannah Gold explores them with depth and sensitivity. As much as I loved April's deep connection with Bear-which is a two-hander for most of the story-I also loved the exploration of April's difficult relationship with her father. April's dad is flawed through pain and grief and his realisation of how he has neglected his daughter is truly moving.

The character of Bear is simply glorious. Sadly, his story carries a grim ecological message to humankind and yet Gold writes it in a way that is raw and impactful but not didactic. She captures the beauty of our planet with awe-inspiring descriptions that capture the true power of nature. The writing is sensory and you can literally smell the ice and snow of Bear Island, the freezing salt of the sea and the wilderness of the mountains. I also adored all the descriptions of the food. Yum!

For a story with few characters and with many scenes featuring just April and Bear, the plot felt pacey, fresh and compelling. The story didn't end as I predicted but instead rose to a shocking and daring climax that literally had me gasping in shock. April is a wonderful protagonist; determined and strong-minded with a heart of gold and you root for her and her cause more and more with every page-turn. 

The Last Bear is a magnificent fictional story grounded in fact and truth. It carries a moving and inspirational message that every reader, young and old, will benefit from reading. However, for our next generation this story is vital. It has a heart as big as April's and Bear's and it would be wonderful to see it being used widely by teachers in the school curriculum. 

The Last Bear is available to pre-order from online bookshops and will be released on 18th February 2021. A big thankyou to HarperCollins and Netgalley for granting me a review copy.
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A beautiful story of the power one girls love and bravery has to make the world a better place. Heartfelt and raw, April and Bear's story covers themes of loss, bravery, courage, climate change and learning to find your voice. Even the smallest of us can make a difference and sometimes a Bear roar is the best way to be heard.

Necessary, powerful and full of love.
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This is a story for all ages. I would love to see it on school curricula and also as essential reading for businesses. Maybe, just maybe April’s message, her fervent hope, will become real: “...imagine if every single person on the planet just did one thing.”

Yet this is about so much more than global warming. It is also about loss - the loss of a wife and mother, the loss of habitat, the loss of kin. And loss has such a deep impact that can be so difficult to express. Hannah Gold describes this beautifully. In particular she gives the polar bear personality, emotions, expression without it ever becoming cheesy or twee. As she writes “Bear’s emotions were as real as any human’s; scudding and naked and raw...Everything about him radiated the kind of wretchedness you would find in an empty, forlorn, forgotten graveyard...”

And it is also a story of hope, courage, adventure, and love which will resonate with children around the world and hopefully will melt a few hearts amongst the adults too. It is pure gold.
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When April learns that she is to spend six months on an uninhabited island in the Arctic with her father, she looks forward to them spending more time together, a consolation after the loss of her mother. But her father is engrossed in his scientific research project so April is left alone to explore the island for amusement.

It's a barren landscape and, though this is Bear Island, April has been told that the polar bears have long disappeared due to the effects of climate change. Yet one night she sees a weak, bedraggled and injured polar bear. She wins its trust and together they forge a very special relationship as April realises that she must find a way for the polar bear to reach a more suitable environment.

It's a wonderful, beautiful, touching and powerful story. 

April is a strong, courageous and compassionate character and the storyline, and her relationship with the polar bear, is believable while also being quite magical.

As the story keeps within the bounds of realism, and avoids sentimentalism, the message about our individual responsibility towards caring for the planet and its creatures has a strong impact.

I couldn't stop reading and was in floods of tears at the end! A fantastic book!
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April and her single-parent father accept a six month posting to remote Bear Island in Northern Norway within the Arctic Circle. He is a research scientist whose speciality is meteorology and the Norwegian Government have been carrying out investigations into the shrinking ice sheets around their northern coastline. Her father tells her that they will have quality time together and terrific adventures on the island of constant summer sunshine for six months, 24/7. It will seem like they are polar explorers and April is really excited about their trip to Bear Island. Her Dad had never been the same since his wife had died and she never sees him smiling anymore. This will be a time for bringing them together and life will once again be sweet and happy.
But when they get to the research outpost on Bear Island she finds that she has loads of free time after doing her school work. Her Dad is engrossed in his work of data collection and his promise of more time together is not going to happen. She is devastated when he tells her there are no Polar Bears left on the island because of global warming and the retreating ice shelf. Disappointed that Bear Island has no Polar Bears any more, April sets off to explore the island piece by piece, every day travelling in a different direction.
Soon she hears a tremendous roaring sound and when she locates where the sound is coming from she has no doubt at all that there is at least one Polar Bear on the Island that used to be their home. She has seen it for herself. She is beyond excited and is determined to succeed in her quest to get closer to the magnificent creature she knew lived on the same island as her.
Indeed she does track down a male Polar Bear, but is dismayed to see that he is starving, injured and unable to hunt so he is hungry, depressed and lonely. His coat is dull, his eyes sad and he certainly doesn’t look well. Looking for support and help from her Dad is in vain because he categorically tells her he doesn’t believe her. He tells her that it is impossible. End of the conversation. She is devastated.
This beautifully written and engaging debut novel tells the endearing story of a preteen’s desperation to save a lone male Polar Bear stranded on an isolated island. She first has to court his trust, befriend Bear and work out a way to reunite him with the Polar Bear fraternity in Svalbard. It proves to be a mammoth task. Can such a small girl even do it alone?
‘The Last Bear’ by Hannah Gold has been endorsed by award-winning children’s author Michael Morpurgo who says, “This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears and for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.” That was enough to entice me to read the novel recommended suitable for children aged over eight. I loved the characters, the storyboard and the subject matter, which is as current an issue as you can get. I thought the relationship between April and Bear was charming and spellbinding. I know the story is improbable, but to me this is Children’s Fiction at its best: hugely enjoyable, relevant to our lives and championing issues that really need to be spotlighted.
I received this book through my membership of NetGalley and from publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books in return for an honest review. Thank you so much for my copy. These are my own thoughts and I have read no other reviews before writing my own. I would recommend this novel as an excellent debut novel for both younger children over the age of eight and adults as well. It raises awareness of critical issues that are ruining our planet and causing the loss of animals that will become extinct unless we protect their habitats and get moving on becoming greener. I love the majesty of Polar Bears and want my legacy to those whom come after me to be able to witness animal species, birds, fish and all living creatures just the way I have from my girlhood to my senior years. 4.5*
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