Monday, September 28, 2020

Review: Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

 With Summer heat sliding farther and farther away, thoughts of winter and snow are beginning to poke at the horizon. Which works great for today's read! It's another animal fiction tale. Yeah, this has got to be a record for me. But I do have a secret fondness for polar bears. Add a musk ox... That's right. This one includes a musk ox! Considering the first book was a prize winner (although I haven't read that one quite yet), I was looking forward to reading and sharing this one.

by Dan Bar-el
Contributions from Kelley Pousette
Atheneum Books
272 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 6th!!!

The adventures of Duane the polar bear and his arctic friends continue in this charming sequel to the modern-day classic The Very, Very Far North, which Booklist compared to Winnie the Pooh in a starred review.

Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.

And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.



This tale between ice and snow is anything but cold as friendship and adventure offer tons of warmth.

First off, this is the following book to another one. I did not read the first one before reading this one, and that was not a problem. The story takes off and immediately becomes familiar right along with the characters. It's no trouble to sink right in with Duane, the polar bear, as he sleeps in his cave and dreams of his friends...later awaking into 'real life'. These are characters, which aren't even difficult not to like, each one carries a very distinct personality and quirks. It's not hard to pick out each one simply through their dialogue and actions. 

The story is written with heart but also with humor and plenty of lessons for young readers. While Duane and his friends are quite the sweet and fun bunch, they are forced to figure out how to deal with a not-so-nice character, which causes all sorts of troubles. There were a few slower moments, where I did find myself skipping over things. But I'm sure this won't be the case for every reader, since I tend to like a little more action.

That's also why I'd recommend this one more for the younger end of middle grade readers. The theme and story flow is rather gentle, and I can see 7 to 10-year-olds enjoying this more than the slightly older age group. While the page amount might seem a little heavy for the younger side, the text is well placed, and there are more than several simple illustrations to break things up and keep the tale even more interesting. The story is told with heavy input from an unknown narrator, which adds extra zest to the tale. And while it walked the border of being almost too potent, at times, it made for a fun read. I'm looking forward to grabbing up the first book and seeing what I missed because I'm sure it was an enjoyable read as well.

And here they are...

Dan Bar-el  is an award-winning children's author, educator, and storyteller whose books include Audrey (cow), Not Your Typical Dragon, and The Very, Very Far North. Dan has worked with children ages three to thirteen as a school-age childcare provider, a preschool teacher, a creative drama teacher, and a creative writing teacher. He also teachers with the Creative Writing for Children Society. Dan lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with artist and goldsmith Dominique Brechault, and Sasha, the most adorable cat in the known universe. Visit him at

Kelly Pousette is an illustrator and storyteller, originally from the west coast of British Columbia. She loves to create things, especially pictures. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post Paris, The Brown Paper Bag blog, and Brightness magazine. She currently resides in northern British Columbia with her husband and very large dog Clovis/ The Very, Very far North series are her first books.

No comments: