The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg is a poignant, humorous and tenderly written story of heartache and healing, of family and friendship: an utterly compelling read that entranced me from start to finish.
Twelve-year-old Patrick Jolly is trapped by the sadness within him. He is the target of bullies at school; his best friend has moved away; and, his mum is suffering from depression after the loss of his baby sister. As if these aren’t big enough worries, imagine his surprise when he walks into his garage and finds a polar bear in the freezer!
However, this is no ordinary polar bear. Wilbur Ambrose Cedric Barnaby Montague the Third (otherwise known as Monty) is a well-read, eloquent and polite talking bear who has inadvertently found himself on an adventure which sees him travelling by melting iceberg, ship and canal to take refuge in Patrick’s freezer!
So begins Patrick’s mission to find a way to keep Monty safe, to get him home to Greenland, to keep him supplied with fish and condensed milk, and to avoid raising the suspicions of mean-spirited neighbour Mr Crankly, all of which is rather difficult when your guest doesn’t appreciate the danger he will be in if he is caught. I mean, what can possibly go wrong when a large polar bear decides that he has had enough of hanging out in the garage, and has a little sleep in the garden hammock instead?
I absolutely adored the genuine friendship that develops between Monty and Patrick. Monty enters Patrick’s life at a time when he desperately needs a friend, and offers him some sage advice, and helps him to confront the difficult situation he finds himself in. The wonderful Monty is partial to Oscar Wilde, condensed milk and has a tendency to wander off, a tendency which leads to plenty of humorous situations, and tricky moments for Patrick as he attempts to keep others from discovering Monty.
The story deals with themes of loss, grief and bullying in a sensitive manner, and offers a perfect opportunity for these issues to be discussed with children. There is also a strong environmental message relating to climate change threaded throughout the story which I really enjoyed. I loved that this is a story that is written with an emotional depth that encourages empathy as we are given an insight into the lives of many of the characters.
The illustrations are completely charming and complement the whimsical nature of the story beautifully. I particularly adored the inside cover illustrations of a sunglasses-wearing Monty dancing – just perfect!
An utterly captivating, warmly humorous adventure that is sure to entrance, and provide food for thought, to readers of 9+.
Thank you to Laura Smythe and the Publisher, Everything with Words for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.