Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Written by Mac Barnett


Art by Shawn Harris


(Candlewick Press, 2020)


I’ve reviewed a couple of Mac Barnett book, Count the Monkeys and The Wolf The Duck & The Mouse [a comma-free title, presumably, in part, to avoid that whole Oxford comma divide]. Barnett’s stories are often quite humorous and, by comparison, A Polar Bear in the Snow is subdued. I would imagine Barnett was amused by white pages described as a polar bear caught in a snowstorm and decided, Well, why not go with it? There’s a story there but, truthfully, not much of one. The appeal of this book is in the art by Shawn Harris who uses rough card stock for the snowy background and then uses cut-out pieces and minimal black ink to create the arctic’s flora and fauna.


A blank white page is the start and then blank ink shows the polar bear emerging, first just his nose, then his eyes as well. As the bear begins to stir, Barnett invites the reader to wonder where he is going. Thick, torn paper in off shades of gray and white makes for a snowy terrain. There is a Jon Klassen influence in the text—indeed, the two have collaborated in the past—when Barnett asks, “Is he going to visit the seals?” We see a cluster of cutesy, frolicking seals. The answer on the next page may startle the young reader: “No. He is not hungry.” Hello, reality check.


The destination, after briefly terrorizing a human, turns out to be the sea. This provides a striking shift in color, the whites giving way to shades of blue, as the bear gets his own opportunity to frolic, the seals wisely out of sight and the fish apparently not to the polar bear’s liking at that moment. The scant story—nothing more than a jaunt—ends back on land, the familiar image of white…a polar bear caught in a snowstorm, though this time Harris has left some abstract tracks on the page. 


It's a calming book, somewhat captivating in a low wattage sort of way. Worth a browse.



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