Alex Bell (text), Tomislav Tomic (illus.), The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, Faber & Faber/Allen & Unwin, Dec 2017, 344pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780571332540
Only tried and true explorers can belong to the The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – and only men. That is until Stella Starflake Pearl is granted permission to accompany her father, Felix and his team of scientific explorers on a quest to find the coldest part of Icelands. However, things don’t go quite to plan. Upon arrival at their destination, Stella and her young companions Ethan, Beanie and Shay become separated from the team. They are on their own in the great Unknown.
The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club is a page-turner; adventure after adventure in a land of curious and deadly creatures. The four young explorers must use initiative and cunning to defeat the many foes they discover upon their journey – and Stella, Ethan, Beanie and Shay each have their own personal challenges to overcome as well. They will need to rely on and trust each other, despite their differences, if they are to survive in this harsh environment.
This great book is about resilience, understanding and determination – physical and psychological. The fast-paced style cleverly drives the reader forward from one cliff-hanger to the next and it is within these harzardous events that we see a bond form between our four young explorers as they gain a greater understanding of each other. Both are expertly delivered by Alex Bell.
The double-page illustrations by Tomislav Tomic are a beautiful addition to this book. The drama and style reminded me of European folk tales I read as a child. These are pictures to ponder over – a moment of reflection amidst the whirlwind of the quest.
My over-zealous editor’s eye did pick up some mistakes with tense on a few occasions and I must admit to being disappointed that the cocktail party at the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club was “thick with cigar smoke”. However, it’s a great adventure that I am sure 9 to 12 year olds will truly enjoy.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors