Book: Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears
Author: Jessica Olien
Age Range: 4-8
Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears by Jessica Olien is a tale of how opposites not so much attract, but rather come to appreciate one another gradually over time. Hazel is a book-loving polar bear who just wants to be left alone to read. Olien calls her shy, but I would classify her as introverted. Karl is an extrovert who loves to talk, and who wants to be noticed. He also smells like fish. They do not approve of one other. However, when an iceberg breaks off from the shore, taking only Karl and Hazel with it, the two opposites gradually learn to get along.
This premise could have come across as didactic, but Olien keeps things light. I think that the book's 40 page length helps, giving her time to develop the two characters, and their rapprochement, slowly. She also uses the device that the iceberg is melting, forcing the two bears to physically become closer over time (and lending a small bit of worry that they might not make it to another shore at all).
It could be that I just identified with Hazel, of course. Here is how she is introduced (wearing an orange scarf and reading Moby Dick):
"She doesn't talk very much.
She likes to sit and daydream in a
quiet spot by the water."
So of course I love her. But I also liked this exchange, as the two start to accept that they are stuck together:
"Of all the polar bears, Karl is stuck with
the one who doesn't like to talk.
Of all the polar bears, Hazel is stuck with
the one who talks too much."
Karl has a delightfully nervous expression, while Hazel stands with hands on hips. The bottom line is that the two polar bears are well-defined characters, their described personalities reinforced by their actions, and by Olien's bold illustrations. I like them, and found myself rooting for them, even as I smiled over them building a wall of ice blocks to divide up their little floating island. The happy ending will make young readers smile.
Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears is an appealing book about friendship, survival, and learning that opposite personalities can complement one another. It could also be used by parents to introduce the concept of introverts vs. extroverts, those these exact terms are not used in the book. Recommended for library purchase, and an especially good fit for fans of books about polar bears.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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