The Last Bear, by Hannah Gold. Junior Fiction.
Reading this beautiful little book was sheer pleasure, and the icing on the cake was the beautiful monochromatic illustrations by Levi Pinfold. This story has all the necessary triggers to make us turn the pages feverishly: a young eleven year old girl whose mother has recently died; her scientist Dad who is ill-equipped to take up both parental roles for her as he is grieving too, and her Granny Apples (so named because she smells of apples) is wonderfully consoling, but lives too far away from Dad’s city job to be a help. And the awful insult to injury is not that her mum died from an illness, but by an idiot drunk driver.
It’s hard to get back on an even keel from such a tragedy, and April’s only consolation is the affinity she feels towards the wild animals who visit her overgrown garden. She has quite a rapport with a family of foxes and various other creatures; they lessen the ache in her heart a little – her mother had the same gift: wild things trusted her. Will life EVER get better? It doesn’t look like it, until her Dad gets a job on a remote Norwegian Island for six months, measuring weather patterns.
Granny Apples is horrified that April is going too, but the deed is done; They are off to Bear Island in the Arctic Circle, where the ice-melt is already causing huge problems for the remainder of the once-flourishing wildlife – including polar bears, those magnificent, ferocious beasts who once held sway in the region; now most of them are starving as they can’t trek across the ice to hunt seals: the ice has melted.
And a bear – the last bear – is trapped on the island, starving, wounded by the horrible plastic rubbish the human race is shamefully responsible for all over our beautiful, nurturing planet: even the Arctic Circle cannot escape our garbage. Until April meets the huge creature, and unlikely as it sounds, forms a firm and wonderful friendship with him when she wins his trust.
‘The Last Bear’ should be a must-read for all children today, for they are the conservators of tomorrow: they have to repair the damage their forebears have visited upon the world. Hannah Gold has crafted a beautiful story of a friendship that ends on a very necessary message of hope; the places and people she writes of are all based on sound factual research, which makes her story even better. This precious little book should rightly become a children’s classic. SIX STARS!!