A Bear Far From Home, by Susan Fletcher/Illustrated by Rebecca Green, (Sept. 2022, Anne Schwartz Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593181898
Inspired by the bear in King Henry III’s royal menagerie, A Bear Far from Home is a heart-aching story that imagines the life of the white bear given to Henry by King Haakon IV of Norway in the thirteenth century. Using letters and official documents, Fletcher creates the story of a young bear born in Norway, her capture by trappers and voyage to England, and her life as the only one of her kind in a new world. Told in verse, the story is sensitive to the young bear’s plight; beginning with the bear’s origin in Norway and how it was a “place that fit her perfectly”, the story shifts to her capture and voyage to England, asking readers to think about how the bear would feel enduring these scary experiences alone. When the King orders his men to let her fish in the river, the story takes on a bittersweet tone as the bear revels in the magic of the familiar as she dives into the water. Illustrator Rebecca Green creates medieval-inspired artwork to tell her story. Gouache and colored pencil illustrations recall tapestries and illuminated manuscripts, with the pages edged in gold frames; deep colors and bold outlines recall stained glass artwork. Notes from the author and illustrator provide deeper context to the story and setting, and a bibliography provides information for more reading. An excellent addition to storytime collections and a great choice for school-age storytime and prompting discussions on empathy.
A Bear Far from Home has a starred review from Booklist.