The Very, Very Far North:
a story for gentle readers and listeners
Written by Dan Bar-El
Illustrated by Kelly Pousette
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 9/3/2019
265 pages Ages 8—12
Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction
Themes: Friendship, Personalities, Animals
Synopsis: If someday you wander north—truly north to the northern part of north—and you come across the Cold, Cold Ocean, follow its shoreline to a beach that’s just right for napping. There you’ll find Duane the polar bear and his friends.
Duane might offer you an icicle treat before introducing you to C.C. the owl, Handsome the musk ox, Twitch the arctic hare, Boo the caribou, and Major Puff the puffin. He might ask your opinion on mid-late-morning naps and late-mid-morning naps. Don’t worry about the fact that Duane is a polar bear—he has only kindness in his heart, which is why his friends love him so.
But if you are not able to visit Duane and his friends anytime soon, then the story tucked gently between the pages of this book should tide you over until you are ready for your own great adventure to the Very, Very Far North.(from jacket flap)
If you head north, really north, to the north part of north, where parallels and meridians tangle, where compasses get confused and chronometers lose confidence, then once you reach that north, you go just a bit farther north, that’s where you’ll find Duane and his friends.
Why I like this book: Duane the polar bear makes friends with other arctic animals, many of whom he names. C.C. the snow owl spends her days in the library of a shipwreck “conducting experiments for the advancement of knowledge toward the benefit of all.” Just past Duane’s cave, Handsome the musk ox enjoys his reflecting pond and prefers good etiquette and manners to bad. Duane loves adventures with his friends, which is how he met Major Puff.
While trying to cross the river, Handsome became stuck. He had scared himself quite literally stiff. Major Puff did not help the situation any when he decided Handsome was his family’s archenemy and began an attack. I cannot tell you how this ends, as that would ruin the story. So it would if I told you how Duane and Magic ended up on a toboggan flying down Baby Whaleback Hill.
The Very, Very Far North is one of those books you will read many times. Read at bedtime, you have two weeks’ worth of short stories (one per chapter). Each story is as humorous and memorable as the last. Your child will have a favorite character, most choosing Duane the polar bear, due to his good nature and willingness to do most anything. The fact that Duane is in every story but one may aid in his popularity with children.
Occasionally the narrator speaks directly to the reader. Those rare times are short and witty. The stories come alive as you read or listen (as the title suggests). The adorable black and white illustrations will delight children.
But . . . I must take the publisher to task. The media page for The Very, Very Far North states this book is a middle grade book, for age eight to twelve. I think the publisher got it wrong. Kids of all ages will love Duane and his friends, and the stories they have to tell. Think of all the kids who will never know Duane the polar bear. I’ll tell you how many. Every kid younger than 8 and older than 12, and that is a BIG number of kids who might miss The Very, Very Far North
This kid hopes Duane the polar bear and his friends (C.C., Twitch, Magic, Handsome, Boo, and Major Puff) will return for additional stories sometime very, very soon.
Illustrations: Rendered in charcoal and digital
The Very, Very Far North: a story for gentle readers and listeners. Copyright © 2019 by Dan Bar-El. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Kelly Pousette. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, NY.
Available at Amazon
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved