Monday, February 4, 2019


I was surprised to learn this story was based on a real event! I was so intrigued by this book that I read the whole thing in one afternoon.

Description from the publisher…

The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.

Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?

Based on the real story of a polar bear that lived in the Tower of London, this timeless adventure story is also a touching account of the bond between a boy and a bear.

Journey of the Pale Bear, written by Susan Fletcher, was published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, in 2018.

Why you want to read this book… 

This is a wonderful story about how a boy learns about himself as he learns to love the bear. If you love animal stories, you will enjoy this book!


In the evening, as darkness falls, I return to the fortress. A guard lifts a lantern to my face, and at once I’m blind, blinking against the flood of sudden brightness.

If you’re a writer… 

The writing in this novel is so lovely, I would read it again just to hear the words and phrases in my mind. It’s worth studying to see how the author uses language to create a mood, to develop character, and to bring settings to life. I liked that the ending wasn’t ‘happily ever after with all loose ends wrapped up.’

Before we saw the bear, we heard her—a heavy, rhythmic tread, a thump, a clang. Beyond the reek of fish, I sniffed out the feral musk of her.

If you’re an educator…

This book lends itself to discussion about the environment and what it means to be free and wild. There’s a lovely appreciation of nature in this book, as well as some sea adventures and survival elements.

I lifted the hatch and peered out. The sun had edged over the horizon, and in the pale morning light I could see the bear pacing slowly back and forth, not far from the sterncastle and the bulk of the crew. Arrows still bristled from her snout, shoulder and leg.

If you’re looking for more to read, check out the list of fabulous middle grade books over at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. I simply adored this story for many of the reasons you mentioned, especially the flow of the writing. Reminds me I need to read this one again. Thanks for the review.

  2. I love your choices. Animal lovers will surely be drawn to the cover. This sound like a great adventure, both internally and externally. Excellent review!

  3. This sounds like a marvelous adventure! Polar bears and pirates - a "Must read" combo. Thanks for your thoughtful comments to entice me into reading it.

  4. I have been hearing about this book and already have it on my TBR list. Thanks for the reminder and a good review.

  5. I remember that Greg really liked this too. Sounds like a great choice for kids who love animals and adventure.

  6. I hadn't heard of this--but it sounds fantastic. Thank you for the snippets of the writing; it is lyrical and powerful. I think the cover is brilliant, too.

  7. Thanks for sharing this one with us, Andrea. I do love animal stories, and I think this cover is just beautiful.


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