Friday, October 05, 2018

Journey of the Pale Bear

Check out the Blog Tour for Fletcher's newest book!

Oct 22: LibLaura5

Fletcher, Susan. Journey of the Pale Bear
October 2nd 2018 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Arthur has run away from his home in Norway during the reign of Henry the VIII. His Welsh father was killed in a war, and his mother has remarried a man who is abusive. After attempting to steal someone's dinner in a pub, Arthur runs across a captive polar bear, and isn't attacked by the animal. The bear is a gift from King Hakkon to the British ruler, and is being shipped over. The captain of the ship is not happy, and when the doctor who is accompanying the bear sees that Arthur pacifies it, he wants the boy to come along. Life at sea is full of all sorts of dangers, including pirate attacks, but through it all, Arthur and the bear seem to share a special bond. When the ship is in danger of sinking, Arthur frees the bear and ends up cast ashore with it. They are eventually recaptured and make their way to London. Arthur has a letter from Wales that he carries with him and has lost, but when he finally gets it back and finds someone to read it, he finds out that he isn't really wanted in Wales any more than he is in Norway. When the bear doesn't do well in the king's menagerie, Arthur is consulted and comes up with an innovative solution to help with the bear's health.
Strengths: This combines two popular topics, befriending wild animals and seafaring! There's a lot of good research, and an appearance by Henry III. Great cover, and I love this author's The Shadow Spinner (1998).
Weaknesses: Historical fiction during the Middle Ages is hard to find, but also a bit hard to write, I think. There are always lots of descriptions about how horribly things smelled and how completely awful life was, which is completely accurate but not that much fun to read!
What I really think: Every time Arthur would scratch behind the bear's ears, I would give my dog a good ear scritch. Readers who really enjoyed Morey's Gentle Ben, Kerr's The Winter Horses or other animal books will like it for the affection, and readers who like swashbuckling tales like Cadnum's Ship fo Fire or Lawrence's The Wreckers will find that this book floats their boat!

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