Reviews /

An Arctic Story

Authored by Jane Burnard
Illustrated by Kendra Binney
Published by Pan Macmillan

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An Arctic Story: The title, An Arctic Story, is intriguing. Without the preceding subtitle, The Animals of the Frozen North, you might not think this was a nonfiction picture book. But real life can conjure up stories just as good as the most creative imaginations.

The first page introduces the reader to the ‘characters’ in this story with helpful labels. We first see the setting too, but from a wide view to see its scale where it ‘sits on top of the world – a frozen sea in a circle of land‘. The book then takes readers on a journey through the habitats which make up this biodiverse and magical place.

The first animal we meet, in an area of pine forests, is the wood frog. At the beginning of winter, it burrows and then freezes to become a ‘smooth, round pebble. But yet she’s alive‘. The language used makes this even more of a story, giving some ‘soul’ to the facts. Across the rest of the arctic, over the winter, we meet more animals than you’d think. And then learning about how they live, from hunting to raising a family to migrating. Until spring arrives and our little wood frog warms and her heart starts beating again.

The story element is supplemented by some more detailed footnotes giving additional information. The reader can decide when to read these. Someone might prefer reading this as a story and leaving those parts to the end, for example. Others might be much more interested in the facts and numbers. The design is an area where this book succeeds. The characters pop-up in more than one page. Their linking and overlapping lives give a greater depth and context. This reminded me of some nature documentaries, which would be great to use alongside.

The illustrations depict the unique animal behaviours and habits well. The arctic fox hunting was a particular favourite of mine, as was the polar bear. Equally, the setting and landscapes are beautifully drawn and coloured. There are a lot more colours than just whites. So, asking children what colours they can expect to find in this book before reading might be a good way in. In the final double spread it reminds readers of the characters again, but this time without the labels. What a great opportunity for children to search, find and identify the animals they’ve learnt and talk more about them.

This is a stunning and useful KS1 text. An Arctic Story could be a whole class read whether a class is learning about polar lands or not. It would be perfect to use as part of your lessons in a multitude of ways.