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Review of Pup and Bear

Pup and Bear
by Kate Banks; illus. by Naoko Stoop
Preschool, Primary    Schwartz & Wade/Random    40 pp.
10/17    978-0-399-55409-4    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-399-55410-0    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-55411-7    $10.99

A comforting jacket illustration of a wolf pup safely nestled within a large polar bear’s protective embrace signals that this story focuses on a loving, if unconventional, parent-child relationship. The little arctic wolf’s adventure begins when he’s stranded on an ice floe and separated from his pack. He’s rescued by the polar bear, who recognizes what the pup needs: “I am not your mother…but I can cuddle you and keep you safe.” The wolf is understandably wary: “Polar bears eat wolves.” “Not this one,” the bear reassures him. With soothing repetition, Banks’s gentle text radiates warmth and love. Stoop’s captivating mixed-media-on-plywood illustrations, with their delicate lines and visible woodgrain texture, capture both the characters’ trusting bond and the harsh setting’s beauty. Over time, the bear teaches the growing pup how to survive, until, finally: “I am not your mother…but I know it’s time for you to go.” The satisfyingly cyclical story ends as it began (“the Big Freeze came, followed by the Big Melt”); the now-grown wolf, who leads his own pack, finds an abandoned polar bear cub and knows instinctively what to do. Is it all too neat? Maybe, but the book’s intended audience will cuddle up to the nurturing message.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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