Finding Bear by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold

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Finding Bear by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Many people will feel the first book in this series could not be bettered. I found this an improvement, if still flawed. Returning readers will not find an iota of a problem here, and this will be a third success in three from this author's imagination.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2023
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008582012

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Last time, April had been on Bear Island, a lot further north than many people would venture, and finding a ridiculously unexpected but delightful friendship with a polar bear – that she called Bear. Back home, things on the domestic and family front are a bit advanced, but not perfect for her, and so can easily be ignored when word comes through from the islands Bear was last left on. For a bear doing very Bear-y things has been shot and wounded. Desperate to make sure he's OK, she and her father return to the Arctic and hope that in a world of very white and very dangerous things, she can find one specific white and dangerous thing – and that the friendship can continue.

Now, Hannah Gold is building up a reputation, and fast, for emotive and mindful adventures. The Last Bear was strong writing, if a little ungainly in my mind in its mix of drama, magical realism and environmental lessons. The book to have surfaced in between the two Bear books was better, bearing much class, I felt, but again something you needed to drop your cynicism for, or just be of the target reading age. Finding Bear, in the finish, was somewhere in between.

Compared with last time, the environmental lessons were better delivered, I thought. Of the various reasons for this book to even exist, one good one is that April has found the message she had brought back from the Arctic to be falling on deaf ears, so this acts as reinforcement. As regards April's personal story, I guess it is realistic that she lapses into saying sinfully stupid things, appearing very needy and contrary, even as what was a complaint about her father's monotonous work interest and nothing else has as I say progressed into something different. It does make her in flashes here and there a lot less than completely loveable.

But I still feel adults have valid reasons to be a tiny bit picky about the approach used here. There is no realism in the friendship between girl and bear – and what happens between them here – even if it is a delicious read. So why were there tiny red crosses in my thinking, such as the contrivances of later encounters, the unrealism of the sled dogs' reaction to Bear, and suchlike? In a world where so many characters get to say something along the lines of this just cannot be true, I feel the author is duty-bound to get as much of this feeling true as possible, and in that she fails.

So once again I am left putting myself in the shoes of a younger reader, and you know what? From that point of view this is a marvel, a wonder, and truly an adventure with heart and a lesson, to sweep us all up in its charms. The young reader will reconnect so easily with April, and with Bear, and either this will feel like you've spent no time away from them at all or you read an inordinate amount. The writing Gold delivers is always dripping with immediacy. I am damned sure she will get to the stage of creating something not even adults can be pernickety about, and I intend to be on board until then and beyond.

With that it's the usual thanks to the generous publishers, for the early review copy, and a couple of closing thoughts. One is that I think this is now it, done and dusted – although I would have thought that after the first book. To my thinking the only reasonable third book would be about ten years after this, and might as well be written, if ever, a decade down the line. And two, while the visuals in these books are full of fantastic detail and drama, I will never agree that putting such a spoiler in the cover art is a good thing. This would have sold without the pull of what we see on the front.

The book in between the Bear books was, of course, The Lost Whale. And if you really don't care that book covers give crucial information away, then The Story of Greenriver by Holly Webb, not long in paperback as I type, does just that.

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