waiting for ice

Waiting for Ice by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks

This is the true story of an orphaned polar bear cub who has to survive the wait for the ice to return without the help of her mother, who would normally have cared for her for another year or two.  This cub lives on Wrangel Island, far north of Russia in the Arctic Ocean.  She lives there with many other polar bears, but she is alone.  She has to find dead things on the shore to eat, defend her finds from scavengers, negotiate other food from hunting bears, and manage to survive.  Many other cubs die from starvation, but this little cub survives.  She manages to live until the ice floes return.  Even then, she is one of the last to leave the island, unsure of how to live on the ice away from land.  Eventually, she spends more and more time on the ice, and then she is carried off into the ocean where she must learn to survive in a new way.

Markle captures the harrowing and desperate life of an orphaned cub in a very straight-forward way.  The reader knows of the danger that this cub is in and how difficult her life will be.  This white-furred heroine also captures the mind of readers, demonstrating time and again how brave and resourceful she is.  Markle takes care not to humanize the life of the bears, instead they are respected as animals with their own lives.  Few human emotions are spoken about, instead the drama comes directly from the situation and survival.

Marks’ illustrations recreate the cold of the Arctic on the page.  Done in whites, blues and browns, they are chilling, warmed only by the young bear at the center.  Marks draws the movement and feel of polar bears with a confidence and care.  These are solid illustrations that do much to support the book as a whole.

A stirring tale of survival set in the Arctic Circle, this book will be enjoyed by young nonfiction readers.  It is also a nonfiction book that would work well in a story time setting thanks to its inherent drama.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.