Atheneum Books for Young Readers
In the Very, Very Far North, past the Cold, Cold Ocean and just below the hill that looks like a baby whale, you’ll find Duane and his friends.
Duane is a sweet and curious young bear who makes friends with everyone he meets—whether they’re bossy, like Major Puff the puffin, or a bit vain, like Handsome the musk ox, or very, very shy, like Boo the caribou. For these arctic friends, every day is a new adventure!
Welcome to the very, very far north, where it's cold and blustery, snowy while sunny, and filled with everything a young polar bear, owl, musk ox, puffin, rabbit, dog, young person, or any other critter imaginable could ever really need. There's shelter, food, fun, and perhaps most importantly, FRIENDS to be made, if only one is willing to adventure forth...and our little friend Duane the polar bear is MORE than ready! Why? Well, every day is filled with POSSIBILITY. Every meeting is a new chance to add to his circle of friends. Every time he ventures out, whether near or far, he has another opportunity to learn something new from someone new or a new situation...and if ever the trek becomes too familiar, it simply means that he's spending time with those he's chosen to be a part of his "family".
Honestly, I fell in love with the characters for their multitude of personalities, and how they interacted with one another. It was refreshing to see them stay true to themselves instead of having them change to simply fit whatever mold was set before them. It certainly speaks to YOU being enough for anyone that truly matters...but, it does MORE than that. Those varied personalities create shall we say friction at times presenting Duane with different situations that can be difficult to navigate at any age without stepping on toes. His gentle nature and positive outlook on life genuinely light of the page and I believe will truly capture the minds/hearts of young readers. Aside from the story itself, the writing was my other true love.
I adored how the story was written, in both style and reading level. It was just enough that younger readers will be challenged, but not overwhelmed; while older readers won't feel as if they are "reading down" by any means, and freely enjoy the tale before them. Regarding the style, there's an unnamed narrator that we as readers get to interact with that makes the connection one feels with the story THAT much greater, and at book's end we get an extra special treat as we're invited further into this group of friends by someone rather unexpected, but oh so heartwarming!
In conclusion, it's a grand adventure through the very, very far north with characters you won't soon forget and lessons in friendship that transfer right off the page. The charming illustrations throughout keep you right there every step of the way, while giving you another layer of connection to your new friends. You'll smile, you'll gasp, you'll shout HIP HIP HOORAY as you make the acquaintance of Duane, C.C., Handsome, and a myriad of other potential new friends in this winter wonderland waiting for you between the pages.
Dan Bar-el is an award-winning children’s author, educator, and storyteller whose books include Audrey (cow), Not Your Typical Dragon, and The Very, Very Far North. Dan has worked with children ages three to thirteen as a school-age childcare provider, a preschool teacher, a creative drama teacher, and a creative writing teacher. He also teaches with the Creative Writing for Children Society. Dan lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with artist and goldsmith Dominique Bréchault, and Sasha, the most adorable cat in the known universe. Visit him at DanBarel.com.
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