Monday, January 12, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Ice Bears

Imagine being born in the dark of winter, where the temperature outside is a frigid minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. While the den is warmer by nearly 30 degrees, the cubs are practically hairless, blind and deaf when they arrive.

In this beautifully written book, Brenda Guiberson describes the struggles a polar bear and her young cubs as they face the challenges of the changing seasons and melting ice. Gorgeous illustrations by Ilya Spirin capture the beauty and harshness of the landscape. Here is an excerpt.
In June, with the sun in the sky both day and night, the arctic starts to thaw. As the sea ice thins, the mother bear searches even harder for seals. If she and the cubs don't pack on enough extra fat, they could starve to death by fall.

The deep ground, called permafrost, stays frozen solid, but the surface snow and ice melt. Drip . . . drip . . . dribble! Billions of mosquito eggs thaw. Bumblebee queens, the only bees to survive the winter, awaken. Lemmings swarm out from their crumbling snow tunnels. Plants poke through the softening snow already blooming for the short summer season.
I learned some very interesting and surprising facts while reading this book. Here are a few.
  • Polar bear milk is 30% fat.
  • Cubs are born weighing only a pound, but in the three months before they emerge from the den they put on nearly 20 pounds just by drinking their mother's milk.
  • A polar bear can smell prey that is 10 miles away.
  • Cubs love to wrestle, but on a day when the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, they quickly overheat!
  • Polar bears cool down by eating snow and swimming in the ocean.
  • After swimming, polar bears shake their fur and roll in the snow to dry off.
The book ends with a note on the melting arctic ice and information on how the earth's warming is threatening the survival of polar bears. Also included is a list of organizations working to help the environment, along with their web addresses.

This is a fine piece of narrative nonfiction that will teach readers much about polar bears. I highly recommend it. Teachers will be interested in the activity suggestions on Brenda Guiberson's web site.

Book: Ice Bears
Author: Brenda Guiberson
Illustrator: Ilya Spirin
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date:
40 pages
Source of Book: Review copy received from the publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

For related books, see this post on arctic life.

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