Polly and the North Star

posted in: Polly Horner | 20

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.

Photo: daita

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 dรฉbut. 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:

  • Etoile Polaire (North Star) by Philip Glass
  • The North Star by Elton John, not really my cup of tea, but I always love it when this blog takes me to places I wouldn’t normally go!
  • North To Alaska by Johnny Horton

  • Some other activities we might try, inspired by Polly and the North Star:

  • Maggie’s Glittery Toothpick Stars from Restoration Place
  • A polar bear with a different sort of texture – at the bottom of this post from fun4kids
  • Snowball cookies from Imagine Childhood – I’m writing this post on the hottest day of the year so far here in the UK so these cookies are about as near as we’ll get to snow for the time being!
  • Papier mache snow owls from Where ada likes to wonder

  • 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!)?

    Once again I’m linking up with stART at A Mommy’s Adventures – I do hope you have the time to head on over there and see what other stories + art families have been up to!

    20 Responses

      • Zoe

        Thank *you* for the inspiration! We’re looking forward to trying our hand at your snowy owls!

    1. sandhya

      We loved the artwork you did for this post and have promptly followed suit. A is sitting down right now and doing a similar painting with glitter. You are so right about having fun if glitter is to be used.
      In India, we have a story about the pole star/ north star in mythology. It is often told to little children as a bed-time story. Here is a link to one such telling of this story. I am not sure if all your readers will understand the references, but it can stand alone as just a story. Vishnu/Narayan, here is the protector in the Holy Trinity in Hinduism, comprising Bramha, the creator, Vishnu, the protector, and Shiva, the destroyer.
      Here is the link:

    2. Almost Unschoolers

      You’re right about the glitter! Maybe I’ll send my children to your house for a glitter party – all they get here is glitter glue, and paint, instead of the really fun, free flowing, stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Kathy

      Lovely post! Our children are experiencing frequent separation from their father, and this sweet story and your accompanying activities would be wonderful for my two younger ones.

    4. MamaGames

      Yay for glitter! Now that it’s summer, we’ve been doing our glitter-ing outside. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You make the illustrations in this book sound fabulous – I’ll have to see if we can find a copy.

    5. Zoe

      Hi MamaGames. I like the idea of glittering outside. Just need to make sure it’s not to windy ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hi Kathy, I definitely recommend Abel’s Moon which I mention early on in this post too. Polly and the North Star might create a bit more anxiety than Abel’s Moon because of the worry about something bad happening to dad.

      Hi Charlene, Our playroom is actually our large kitchen. We quite often end up with glitter in our pasta ๐Ÿ˜‰

    6. JDaniel's Mom

      This book looks wonderful. The cotton ball craft came out so well. I love the polar bear. Have a wonderful weekend!

    7. Rea

      Thanks for leaving me a comment, because I have found your site! I was so excited to find your list of childrenยดs books about bilingualism. I rely on the internet for English book purchases but never know where to start. You have given me a pile for the wishlist!


    8. Jenny

      Your project turned out great. The book looks neat; I’m always drawn to illustrations with rainbows. And I often wish I could use children’s book illustrations as art. This would be a good project for us because my husband has been going outside with the kids and his phone and showing them the google constellation app (looking for the planets/North Star, etc. in the sky) on this droid phone.

    9. Louise

      Hi Zoe, I think I have visited your blog before but still can’t work out how to subscribe – can you help?
      I loved the sound and look of “polly” – I was looking for space stories when I came across it here, so I will file it away – a lovely wintry story for the hot old Mallee(in Australia)
      Thanks for your blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    10. Katie

      Hello! This post is perfect for our theme tomorrow on ABC & 123 (1/2011). We hope it will be okay if we link to your post and include a picture. Please let us know if you’d prefer that we do not. Thanks!

      • Zoe

        Absolutely Katie, thanks for asking, it will be an honour. Please just acknowledge the source of the photo you choose (eg Photo: Playing by the book).

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.