There are not many books which give me nightmares but Snow Bear by Piers Harper is one. It was a favourite of both girls when they were toddlers, even though I couldn’t stand the sight of it (you can read more in my review here). But months, even years, after I last read that book, it recently came back to haunt me with a vengeance.
Piers Harper’s Snow Bear is about a young polar bear who has lost his mum. A young Inuit girl helps to reunite mother and cub and all live happily ever after.
Snow. Being lost and then reunited. Cuddly animals. All good. At least for my kids.
But can you imagine that sinking feeling in my stomach when last month a new book arrived for review, a book about a polar bear cub who has lost his mother, but who is reunited with her thanks to a young girl?
Not only that, it too is called The Snow Bear and it’s by an author I associated (without every previously having read anything by her) with soppy, girly stories full of fluff and nonsense?
Uh-uh. No Way. Hide it to the back of the cupboard. Give it away to some unsuspecting soul.
I was not going to go through another round of polar bear hell.
But then the twinkling stars conspired against me. M needed a new book to read (when J has ballet lessons on a Saturday morning we have a little routine going whereby I wrap up a new-to-M book/comic and give it to M to read – a Saturday morning treat instead of sweets) and I had nothing in the house that I could offer. Well nothing other than a book I didn’t want to share.
But aren’t I a book champion? Don’t I believe that all reading is good reading? Don’t I try to be that sort of gatekeeper where the gates are always open allowing a flood of variety through rather than thinking I know best about what ought to be locked up and kept from prying eyes? Don’t I believe, on some level, that every book has a reader somewhere out there for whom it will be just right?
And of course, M devoured this book. She LOVED this book. She was so excited and happy to read this book. M loves reading, but even I was a little taken aback by the enthusiasm with which she talked about this book and INSISTED that I read it.
So I read it. I read it on my own.
It looked like I was going to have to admit I was wrong. It looked like I was going to have to do that hardest of things and change my opinion.
To be doubly sure, I read it again, this time aloud as a bedtime read to J.
J adored the book, and even on a second read I still thought this book was really rather good.
It’s about people being kind and thoughtful, it’s about family bonds and tensions, it’s about love, loss and longing, and it’s got a real air of authenticity about it.
From the historical / geographical / social details of Inuit life to the emotional world of a young child, Holly Web has written a story which rings true (even in that final moment when you have to decide has it all been a dream or not).
For a young independent reader it’s a wonderful book. It looks and feels lovely to hold – a proper hardback, with a little bit of sparkle. Black and white illustrations every few pages help draw you in and then the magic of the tale takes over. There’s the adventure of making a real igloo and camping out in it, there’s the delight of listening to your grandpa tell what seem like impossible tales. There’s the reassurance that whenever you’re lost, you will always end up being found and reunited with those that matter to you.
So don’t let any misapprehension you might have about soppy girly stories (or polar bears) put you off picking up this book. If you need any more persuading check out Polly’s brilliant review on her blog, The Little Wooden Horse (interesting not least because she reviews as a mother of two boys) or Library Mice’s review which include a video of the author talking about her book.
Given the season, we decide we’d make some Christmas tree ornaments to remind us of Holly Webb’s Snow Bear. Like the hostess with the mostest I was able to conjure up out of General Supplies some wooden die-cut polar bears (bought several years ago from Hobbycraft) which the girls painted and then covered in sparkles.
Some drilling and thread later our first tree decorations were ready:.
Whilst making our polar bear decoration and banishing nightmares we listened to:
When was the last time you had to change your mind about a book? When was the last time you came face to face with your own book prejudices?