A Bear Far From Home (Susan Fletcher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Bear Far From Home, written by Susan Fletcher and illustrated by Rebecca Green, a deeply contemplative and moving tale based on a true story.

Once upon a time, many hundreds of years ago, a polar bear was born in the arctic snow. She likely did the things that bear cubs do: cuddled her mother, played in the snowdrifts, dove through the icy waters. Until one day, trappers came and shipped the bear to England, a gift from Norway’s king to Henry III. The bear was kept in a menagerie in the Tower of London, crammed in a small enclosure, far away from everything that once was home. She must have felt very lonely and confused, and while we don’t exactly know why, King Henry decided to do an unusual thing to allow her some freedom: she was allowed to swim in the river Thames.

Hauntingly beautiful. Using the handful of historical records that remain of Henry III’s actual white bear, Fletcher builds a spellbinding story that treats the bear’s journey as less a factual account and more a rumination on what the bear might have thought or felt as each development unfolded. Fletcher strikes a unique (and effective) middle ground between realism and anthropomorphism, repeating asking the audience to “imagine” or “consider” how the bear was perceiving her experiences. In doing this, the story weaves together themes like the ethics of owning wild animals, moving to an unfamiliar and unwelcoming environment, and even finding the joys that one can in times of sadness. It’s deep and weighty yet somehow not bleak, and is enhanced greatly by Green’s rich, medieval-inspired illustrations. The length is good for a storytime, and JJ was particularly engaged with this emotional story, which prompted an important discussion on how we treat wild and captive animals. Overall, this is a beautifully-made and truly beautiful story, and we absolutely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)