Having just interviewed Hannah Gold for the I’d Rather Be In Deeping magazine (interview here) and with Hannah being a local to me author who, along with Elly Griffiths, is one the Deepings Literary Festival children’s writing competition judges, I was thrilled when Tina Mories of Harper Collins Children’s Books asked me if I would like a copy of Hannah’s The Last Bear for review. With an endorsement by Michael Morpurgo on the front cover to The Last Bear how could I refuse? I’m delighted to share that review today. I was reading a proof copy with artwork by Levi Pinfold to come, but you’ll find examples of the wonderful illustrations here.
The Last Bear is published by Harper Collins Children’s Books on 18th February 2021 and is available for pre-order through the links here.
The Last Bear
Imagine making friends with a polar bear… The Last Bear is perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.
“This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.” Michael Morpurgo.
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…
This moving story will win the hearts of children the world over and show them that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference. The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.
My Review of The Last Bear
April’s father has a new job in the Arctic Circle.
I’m slightly at a loss to know how to review The Last Bear. It is one of the most glorious children’s books I’ve ever read, with a depth and understanding shining through Hannah Gold’s writing that is enormously affecting. The Last Bear deserves to take its place alongside the canon of the best of children’s fiction. Add in the breathtakingly beautiful illustrations by Levi Pinfold and this is a book to gift, to cherish and to return to time and again.
Firstly, the plot is gripping, fast paced and totally believable, despite the unusual premise of a small 11 year old girl befriending a polar bear, so that even the most reluctant of young readers cannot fail to be ensnared and captivated. It isn’t just the narrative proper that holds such power, but the death of April’s mother in the past, and the potential for events in the future that leave leave the reader thinking about The Last Bear long after the final page is read.
The environmental aspect of The Last Bear is, of course, vital to the plot and overall message that humans need to do more to protect the environment. Shrinking ice caps, plastics in the sea, and the negative impact of humans on the natural world underpin the story. However, whilst this might sound as if The Last Bear is preachily worthy, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Hannah Gold integrates these aspects so naturally and so brilliantly that they have incredible power almost without the reader realising. Through April’s adventures, The Last Bear inspires readers to want to make a positive difference to the planet.
It comes as no surprise to me to learn that Hannah Gold has worked in film and magazine industries because the sensory elements of her writing make the story leap from the page. Every sense is catered for so that the reader is placed alongside April, experiencing life on Bear Island with her, just as vividly as if they were actually there. I was totally transported by this aspect of The Last Bear.
The characterisation in The Last Bear is stunning. With most of the narrative involving April and Bear with her father alongside, there is the opportunity to see right into the soul of these characters because they are presented with such humanity and insight in a totally accessible manner. April is not easily accepted by her peers and those children who feel as if they are slightly an outsider will find solace and inspiration in April’s story. I love the fact that she has an affinity with nature, that she illustrates that although she’s an 11 year old girl she has the ability to affect change and be interested in the world around her. However, it was the intimacy of her relationship with Bear and her father that almost broke me. Her need to be loved, her desire for attention from her heartbroken, grief stricken, work obsessed father and the way she listened to the natural world had a physical effect on me. There’s a profound sadness that made me weep and an ultimate feeling of hope that imbued me with positivity. I’d defy a reader of any age not to be moved and affected by this book.
With websites for further investigation and a letter and note from the author too, The Last Bear is a book that speaks directly to children of all ages and makes them part of the story, not just of this bear, but of the planet as a whole. I feel it might just be one of the most important children’s books of the decade. It’s beautifully written, exciting and moving to read and as close to perfect that a children’s book can be. I thought it it was wonderful, utterly outstanding, and cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Hannah Gold
Hannah Gold worked in the film and magazine industries before taking time out to pursue her dream of writing. She lives in Lincolnshire with her tortoise, her cat and her husband.