Review Blog

Sep 18 2020

The polar bear in Sydney Harbour by Beck Feiner and Robin Feiner

cover image

ABC Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780733339400.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. On her way home from the zoo, across Sydney Harbour on the ferry, Hannah notices a polar bear. She befriends him and calls him Rodney, wanting to keep him as a pet. But Rodney is too hot in the Sydney weather and so she does a few things to cool him down, eventually realising that he has not come to Sydney for an adventure, but by accident. She is also puzzled by the fact that no one else can see him. She takes him to Bondi Beach, there hoping to find someone to help Rodney get back home. But they are all too interested in having fun on the beach to notice Rodney. She takes him on the underground and the same thing happens, and so she take him Christmas shopping. Surely someone amongst the huge crowds will notice him, but they are all too preoccupied with their shopping to notice a polar bear. Dispirited they return home, but Hannah notices the lighthouse and has an idea. They climb the building and Rodney basks in the light, his fur reflecting the light all over Sydney, making everyone sit up and take notice. They work with Hannah to get the polar bear back home and he leaves on a ferry to return with a snow dome of Sydney Harbour as a parting gift.
Hannah's persistence has paid off and now everyone is aware that a polar bear does not belong in Sydney Harbour, awakening them to the perils of climate change and its consequences.
This will be an interesting and questioning book to read and discuss with classes. As I write this review, two humpback whales have been found in East Alligator River in Kakadu National Park, veered off their course through the Timor Sea. So animals out of their usual spaces are now not uncommon. And all begs the question of why and what can we do about it.
I love the illustrations with blocks of colour, each page having a host of details to absorb and explore. Views of Sydney are very recognisable, even to those who live elsewhere, and I love the maps in the endpapers, giving younger readers an idea of where the animal lives and what his journey back will look like, hopefully tempting them to look at a larger map to see just where polar bears do live, and how far they are from Australia. Teacher's notes are available.
Themes: Animals, Climate change, Polar bears, Persistence, Sydney.
Fran Knight

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