About the Holiday
Today we celebrate polar bears, the largest member of the bear family and a critical part of the Arctic ecosystem. These beautiful creatures spend much of their time at the edge of ice packs, from which they hunt for food. Their excellent sense of smell allows them to sense food up to a mile (1.6 km) away. Increasingly polar bears are under threat from changes in climate which are shrinking their habitat and affecting their quality of life. In honor of today’s holiday take time to research polar bears and consider donating to a cause for their protection.
Little Polar Bear
By Hans de Beer
At last little Lars is old enough to go hunting with his father, and they head out into the white, frozen expanse to find the perfect fishing spot. While Lars watched from the edge of an ice pack, his dad disappeared underwater for so long that Lars began to worry. When he finally surfaced, however, he brought with him a large fish for dinner. After dinner it was time to sleep. Lars’ father showed him how to build a wall of snow to lie behind that would protect him from the wind.
During the night as Lars and his father slept, the ice cracked between them, sending Lars floating away by himself. When Lars woke in the morning, he discovered that he was alone and that the warm sun was melting his ice floe little by little. Just as the ice threatened to disappear entirely, a barrel floated by and Lars crawled on top of it. “Then a storm began to rage. As Lars clung to his bobbing barrel he missed his father and his pile of snow more and more.”
By the time the storm subsided Lars was far from home. He found himself in a place with no snow or ice; instead “almost everything was green and the sun was very warm.” Lars left the barrel and padded onto the sandy beach. The hot sand burned Lars’ paws, and he ran to the nearby river to cool them. “But just as he was about to plunge in, a very big, tan animal sprung out of the water.” Frightened, Lars ran away, but the hippopotamus followed him and introduced himself. Henry had never seen a white bear, and Lars had never seen a tan animal.
Lars told Henry about his trip and how he wanted to find father. Henry didn’t know how to help, but he figured that Marcus the eagle would know what to do. With Lars on his back Henry started the long journey across the river, through the jungle, and over the mountains. On the way, Lars loved seeing all the different colors, creatures, and vegetation. He climbed trees, met a chameleon, and sniffed at a butterfly. When they came to the mountains, Henry had trouble climbing, but Lars scampered ahead and showed him where to step.
Finally, Henry couldn’t go any farther. He and Lars found a place to rest for the night. The view of the water made Lars homesick, but Henry reassured him. The next day, high on the mountain, Lars and Henry found Marcus. “The eagle looked at Lars and then said, ‘Well, well, a polar bear in the tropics! You’re a long way from home aren’t you, young man?’”
Marcus explained that he could indeed help Lars get home, but they would need the assistance of Samson. In the morning a gray whale swam near shore, and Lars climbed on his back. While Henry was happy that Lars could find his way home, he was also sad to see him go. He and Lars said goodbye to each other. As Henry looked on, Samson and Lars swam out into the open ocean with Marcus flying “along a bit to set them on their way.”
After Samson had swum a long distance, icy cliffs once again appeared on the horizon. As they drew closer, Lars spotted his father standing at the edge of the ice scanning the sea. Lars called out to him, and Lars’ father couldn’t believe his eyes. In thanks for bringing back his son, Lars’s father caught a big fish and gave it to Samson. Lars and his father started toward home, and as they walked “Lars talked about all of the amazing things he had seen.” His father was astonished. “‘You didn’t meet anyone who was white?’” he asked. “‘Nobody, except a chameleon,’ said Lars, ‘but that doesn’t count.’” Lars laughed, but his dad couldn’t understand the joke.
Hans de Beer’s sweet, adventurous little polar bear has been long beloved by young readers who have followed his journeys and escapades through many books. This favorite introduction to Lars, his father, and the North Pole was reissued in 2016 and is as timely now as when it was first published. De Beer’s straightforward story of a young bear suddenly taken away from home, surviving by instinct, and discovering new places, friends, and ideas, is at once exciting and comforting. As Lars finds himself in unfamiliar territory populated with animals and creatures he’s never seen before, he doesn’t shy away from the experience, but embraces the diversity of what he sees just as the tropical animals accept him. The kindness and camaraderie shared among the animals is a universal lesson for all.
Little ones love de Beer’s expressive animals and the caring interactions between them. Kids will laugh when Henry pops out of the river to say “boo!” and giggle to see Lars and the chameleon sticking out their tongues together. The soft pastel palette invites kids to linger over the pages and experience both the frozen tundra and lush jungle with the same awe as Lars. Readers will cheer when Lars is reunited with his father, but will also look forward to traveling with their new friend again in his other adventures.
Ages 3 – 8
NorthSouth Books, 2016 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0735842649
International Polar Bear Day Activity
Polar Bear Scarf or Banner
Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.
- Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
- 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
- 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
- Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
- String or twine for banner
- Fabric or paper glue
Directions for Scarf
To make the fringe at each end of the scarf
- Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
- Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section
To make the pieces for the scarf or banner
- Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
- Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
- Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
- Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
- Cut out round snowflakes
- Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose
On one end of the scarf
- Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
- Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
- Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
- Glue on the polar bear’s nose
- Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
- Glue snowflakes above polar bear
On the other end of the scarf
- Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
- Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
- Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
- Glue the small blue door onto the white door
- Glue snowflakes above the igloo
Directions for Banner
- Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
- Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
- Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
- Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger
Picture Book Review