The Last Bear
The Last Bear
Hannah Gold, illus. Levi Pinfold. London: Harper Collins, hb, 978 0 00841 128 2, 2021, £12.99, 304 pp.
Fiction, illustrated book, 8+ years
Eleven-year-old April jumps at the chance to spend the summer alone with her climate scientist father on the remote Bear Island in the Arctic Circle.
She cares deeply about nature and is looking forward to exploring and spending time alongside her dad. But dad’s work leaves no time for exploration and brave, stoic April realises that if she wants to find out about Bear Island she must venture out on her own. April knows that, due to ice melt, no bears remain on the island, so when she catches sight of one she can hardly believe her eyes. April’s first tentative encounter with the lone, lost, starving Bear, steadily develops into a deep bond of understanding and trust between the two. But April knows that Bear is far from his true home and she is determined to help him, whatever dangers lie ahead.
The Last Bear is a gorgeously illustrated adventure which highlights the impact of global warming on wildlife. The book has at its heart the beautifully evoked friendship between a Polar Bear and a young girl. The story moves along quickly, but thoughtfully – allowing April’s strength of character, enquiring mind, deep feelings and sensitivity towards animals to be explored. But this is far more than just an environmental adventure story, for Bear is not the only creature who is lost. April’s widowed father is so stranded in grief that he hardly notices her. It is only to Bear that April can voice the deep hurts she cannot express to her dad. April’s friendship with Bear ultimately provides a way back to her father, but only after father and daughter nearly lose each other.
The Last Bear is as much a story about loss and healing and remembering to live, as it is about nature and the environment. And it is all the stronger for it.
Review by Anne Walker