This winter we’ve had plenty of frosts and some snow and the wintry conditions have brought all our books with penguins or polar bears to the surface on our jammed -to-overfilling bookshelves and one that was once a favourite of M’s has now become a daily read for J.
Snow Bear by Piers Harper tells a simple story of growing up. A young polar bear ventures out of his den to investigate the exciting world around him. He has so much fun playing in the snow and then in the water that he loses track of time and finds himself lost. With the help of a friendly reindeer and a young Inuit girl the snow bear is eventually reunited with his mother:
“I found out that there are lots of fun things to do, and lots of exciting places… but being home with you is the very best place of all.”
The story is familiar and comforting, and the illustrations at least in the board book version we have are fun for J as the fur in various animals is picked out and printed with a material which is soft to touch.
I imagine the book has been such a hit with my two girls as there is a reasonable dose of adventure and exploration coupled up with the reassurance that Mum and cuddles will always be there at the end of the day. That said, this is one of those books that just doesn’t do it for me. I read it because the girls love it, but otherwise I would have been happy had it remained buried at the back of the bookcase.
The story isn’t told with any originality, magic or poetry – maybe that’s in some sense why it works – there is nothing offensive or challenging about it. The illustrations are cute but not the sort of images I would want to look at every day for inspiration or solace. I’m glad I have the book as the girls clearly get something from it, but it is not a book I would give as a gift or particularly recommend, but if you found it in the library maybe your kids would enjoy it as much as mine.
All that said, the activity that was inspired from the (many) readings of this book was a lot of fun and definitely one I would recommend you try out!
1. The night before we did this activity I froze water in several different sized containers in our freezer. To some containers I added some food colouring to create coloured blocks of ice, but this seemed to effect the freezing point of the water and several of these blocks were not completely frozen after 24 hours in the freezer.
2. The next day we covered the table with some old towels (and had a couple more to hand in case of accidents) and on to the table I placed a container with some water and blue food colouring to mirror the description given of the polar sea in Snow Bear. We emptied out the frozen blocks of ice from the freezer and added them to the water to create icebergs.
4. With the use of some salt to help stick the various ice cubes and blocks together M made some ice sculptures whilst J had a whale of a time throwing the animals into the water and creating the biggest splashes she could (the towels were very useful at this point!)
Snow Bear: ** (2 stars) if my daughters were voting, * (1 star), if it were only up to me.
Music to go with this activity could include:
Making an icy landscape is something wintry one can do with the kids even if it isn’t snowy outside. Here are some other wintry activities you could try in warmer climes:
Some of the ideas above came from the Yahoo Group Kids Activities – click here if you’d like to to find out more or sign up.
(Almost) finally, there is a short but sweet list of non-fiction books for kids about arctic life available at Open Wide Look Inside, a blog which “is about throwing open the pages of books and using them to motivate and excite kids about learning math, science and social studies.” – definitely worth a visit! And then there’s a great long list of winter snow books at Through The Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews, where I’ve found quite a few new books I now want to get!
If you’ve got any great polar bear book suggestions, or wintry indoor activities please let us know! Also, here’s your chance to moan about the books you can’t bear but which your children just adore….