The Last Bear - Hannah Gold, ill.by Levi Pinfold
Updated: Feb 17
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that's what April's father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life...
I loved the plot, I loved the characters, I loved the message...and The Last Bear is written so well that only one of these elements would have made the book one of my favourite recent reads, but all three combined? That elevates this and makes it something much more powerful...it's a cry to all of us regards climate change and environmental impact, and a cry for action to do something about it; a demonstration too, that no matter how small we may be, we can make a difference.
“This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.” Michael Morpurgo
The story follows the experiences of April, a young girl who relocates with her scientist father to an isolated Arctic research station following the death of her mother. Battling loneliness and coming to terms with the loss of her mother and her father's reaction to it, April explores the island and meets Bear. What follows is a tale of friendship, love, and bravery; of standing up for what's right and facing big challenges despite being 'small'.
Polar bears are majestic creatures.... yet the bear on April's island is powerless and lost, and needs the help of this lonely, but fiercely loyal and caring child to come to his aid. April's dad says she won't understand the complicated things in the lab, yet she understands something much more important...the need to save Bear - the story that follows showing that April is prepared to make a stand and put herself on the line to do it.
The relationship between April and her dad (and the reasons for how he behaves) is a powerful narrative, and alongside the themes of grief and loneliness, supply a serious tone to the story, mirroring the bleakness of the landscape these characters find themselves in. What shines through, however, is a message of hope, love, and the power of belief in ability to change the staus quo - not accepting that things are the way they are, but that they can change and BE changed.
Hannah Gold's message, via April, is that we need to ACT to save these bears and do something about climate change It's all very well, scientists (like April's father) studying and telling us about the impact, but what we need is to DO (as April does) - it's not enough to care and be aware...we need to ACT to save these bears, doing something about a future we CAN change, if we act.
I really liked the relationship between April and Bear...the affinity and understanding they had for each other in sharp contrast with April's dad and how he displayed (or struggled to) his love for her. I loved the descriptions of the environment, and there's action and humour in places, too (the hiding of peanut butter to smuggle to Bear made me chuckle!), and the escape to sea at the end had me gripped with tension.
All in all, a great book on all fronts, and rightly deserving of all the plaudits it has received pre-release, and no doubt will be flooded with more of, when it is released tomorrow (February 18th, 2021). A superb story of adventure, love, values and doing the right thing, with a message about our planet more important now than ever.
The advance proof copy I received did not have any internal illustrations, but the gold foil-adorned cover, and subsequent artwork I have seen (some of which I have included here) from Levi Pinfold, only add to the beauty of the text. Stunning.
Congratulations, Hannah Gold - a brilliant, brilliant book, a powerful message, and beautifully delivered - Bear will stay with me for a long time to come, and I can't wait to share the story with others...it's still early in the year, but I think we might already have a winner for 2021's best book....
I dare you not to fall in love with Bear.
Thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an advance copy of this book to review, and to Hannah Gold for her kind words and the polar bear gifs on Twitter!
Follow @HarperCollinsCh and @HGold_author on Twitter for more information, or look at these websites:
You can read a blog from Hannah about The Last Bear here:
and watch her introduce Bear here:
Review by Rich Simpson (follow me as @richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram) February 2021