Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Harper Collins Children’s Books – published 18th February 2021
“Just imagine, if every single person on the planet did one small thing?”
April Wood aged 11
Set against the stark landscape of the arctic circle is a stunning and heart-stopping adventure that teaches us that no-one is too small or insignificant to make a difference in the war on climate change.
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…
Even before they were posted to the remote polar weather station, April and her father were like islands in the Artic Ocean, ice-caps slowly drifting further and further away from each other, all the love and laughter they once shared seemingly melting away. Even though April’s mother has been dead for just over half her life, her father is becoming more and more withdrawn and increasingly unable to connect with his daughter.
Once they arrive on the island, her father becomes even more introverted, locking himself away in the weather cabin for days on end. Used to her own company, April spends hours roaming the desolate island alone in sub-zero temperatures. But April is a survivor and even in such harsh conditions and starved of warmth, both at home and out in the wilderness she still finds the strength to thrive.
It’s as if April and Bear are drawn to each other – two lost souls, desperate and folorn traipsing aimlessly through emptiness. From the moment she meets Bear, April can see the story in his eyes, a story of hunger and perhaps loneliness, although she’s not sure if that’s a reflection of her own feelings.
And it’s as if Bear instantly senses something about April too. Bear reads her feelings perfectly, in a way her own father had been unable to do for years and there is an instant connection between the two of them. When April first discovers Bear, he is a shadow of the majestic creature a polar bear should be. Entangled in plastic, his paw is badly injured and unable to hunt properly, he’s emaciated from the lack of food.
April’s character has such a strong affinity with nature and the animal kingdom and little by little, she begins to nurse Bear back to health. But she knows ultimately Bear will not survive alone on the island – marooned by the melted ice caps – and resolves to rescue him, no matter what the cost.
There are so many awe-inspiring scenes throughout the story – my heart was in my mouth on several occasions! Levi Pinfold’s illustrations perfectly capture the sheer drama and often danger and near-death between the pages. I have to say, The Last Bear would make an absolutely spectacular motion picture.
As well as completely sweeping readers away in this extraordinary adventure, Hannah Gold conveys powerful messages about the plight of the planet and the wonderful but endangered creatures that inhabit it. April’s strong-mindedness, determination and commitment to convincing adults around her to take action is reminiscent of climate activist Greta Thunberg – unaplologetically fiesty and unafraid.
The Last Bear is not just a magical adventure of a remarkable connection between animal and human, but a battle cry for the environment. It is a reminder that we need to do everything we can individually to fight climate change as little things done collectively will slowly start to heal our earth and save these magnificent creatures from extinction.
Put simply and so much better than I ever could,
“With a loud enough roar, I know we can make a difference”
Explore Hannah’s website here and listen to her read an extract of the book. Hannah is available for author visits and schools can find out more in the schools section of the website.
With thanks to Harper Collins Children’s Books for sending me an advance copy of the book to review.