I wish I were better at keeping notes… Polly Horner is an author/illustrator I discovered on someone else’s blog but I can’t now remember whose, which is very frustrating! We’re smitten with Horner’s first book, Polly and the North Star and I should love to be able to thank whoever it was who first brought this author/illustrator into my line of sight.
A tale exploring love and longing and managing anxiety when a child is separated from a parent (and thus would pair marvellously with Abel’s Moon, which I reviewed here), Polly and the North Star is a gem, a stunning début. Polly’s father is some sort of conservationist and his work takes him to Alaska, far from his family. He and Polly agree that whenever she looks up and finds the North Star, he too will be looking at it, reaching out to her and saying goodnight.
Polly takes great comfort from the North Star and when she goes to bed she loves to imagine all the animals her father is working with to protect. In her dreams she makes special friends with a polar bear called Snowflake and and snowy owl called Mercury. After counting down the many days, it is finally the day Polly’s father is due to leave Alaska and return home, but for the first time she cannot see the North Star from her window. She knows her father is in trouble and wishes desperately that she could do something to help him.
With the help of her animal friends she battles through a blizzard and finds her father lying in the snow. When she tries to rouse him, it is she herself who is roused from her dreams by her own father – he has returned home safe and sound.
We love this gently told story, but what really stands out about this book are the tremendous illustrations – full of colour and sparkle. Not that there is any glittery printing in this book – it is simply Horner’s technique and materials that make her pictures appear to twinkle. Bright colours are often contrasted with rich, dark blues and almost-blacks and her use of different washes and streaks works wonderfully to capture movement – whether the wind on the Arctic plain, or the snow in the blizzard. Horner’s animals are also fantastic. Although they are drawn with relatively few strokes, their faces are full of warmth and emotion, without becoming cutesy and caricatured. Oh how I’d love one of Horner’s Birthday Portraits!
Taking our cue from Snowflake and the stars shimmering throughout this book we decided to create our own starry night-times with polar bears out and about exploring. First M and J draw polar bear outlines on black paper, filled the outlines with glue and then used cotton wool to give the polar bears their coats.
More glue was liberally dribbled over the paper and then out came a blizzard of silver glitter…
There’s nothing quite like being let loose with glitter to make little people happy!
This was a very simple activity but much enjoyed, which is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Polly and the North Star: ** (2 stars) or maybe even *** because now I’m looking at the illustrations again I just want to have them up on my wall!
Some music to find the North Star by:
Some other activities we might try, inspired by Polly and the North Star:
What stories about being separated from each other have you and your kids enjoyed or taken comfort from? And what are your favourite star books (just in case I need another excuse to get the glitter out!)?