By Kirsten Sims
Published by Frances Lincoln Childrens Books ISBN: 9781847809490
Review by Alice Larsson
The story of a violin-playing Polar Bear being set free from the circus in Balthazar the Great is one with a meaningful message underlying it, emphasised in part by the bizarre playfulness of the warm-hued places the chalky bear travels through.
Sims tackles what is essentially a gruesome and current subject in a whimsical way, without degrading the moral behind it , and that can be a difficult balance to achieve. Sims’ painterly illustration and the equally delicate font, encourage a reader of any age to turn the pages lightly for fear of smudging them.
This is a book that keeps on giving to a younger reader, through the new tiny details discovered every time the book is read. Glasses, scarves, instruments and swimming trunks – each character is different.
The layering of textures and maps help to enliven the book, without over crowding the mind of a child. If anything for an older reader, the rough strokes and subtle layering tempt you to open your watercolours again.
Finishing the story with a family reunion makes this an easy choice for bed time reading, inviting children to dream about an arctic filled with polar bears – something we’d all like to see come true. Kirsten Sims’ dedication sums it up: ’To my parents for teaching me to appreciate animals in their natural habitat’.