The Hunted: Polar Prey by Sara Louise Kras

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Bundle up Because Sara Louise Kras is Taking us
to the Arctic in her new Fiction Book, The Hunted: Polar Prey

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The Hunted: Polar Prey by Sara Louise Kras, Speeding Star, 2014.

Sara Louise Kras, a local L.A. author, makes it easy for kids to forget the warm California sun when she transports them to below zero weather “way up north in the Arctic on the Hudson Bay” in The Hunted: Polar Prey (Speeding Star, $14.95, ages 8-9). With over 30 non-fiction books under her belt, Kras has now forayed into fiction, quite convincingly so, with this early chapter book. I have no doubt that even the most reluctant of readers will find it hard to tear themselves away from The Hunted: Polar Prey with its 21 short, fast-paced chapters and a story inspired by an article Sara once read (see Author’s Note in the back matter to find out more!). The action revolves around the “Global Warming Research Station,” a place that Kras has actually visited in Canada, and where the book’s main character, Jeremy, lives with his scientist parents.

The story is brought to life by alternating four characters’ perspectives. The book opens with the first chapter devoted to the polar bear, low on nourishment, and waiting by an air hole to catch a seal. He grows frustrated when the seal first eludes capture. Kras sets the tone immediately by introducing us to one very angry bear. Readers then meet Jeremy, the story’s 12-year-old protagonist. Kids will get a sense early on, of not only what the main character is thinking, but also what the polar bear is thinking. They’ll learn about fascinating polar bear behavior without even realizing it. The other chapters share viewpoints of Paula, Jeremy’s mom and Felix, Jeremy’s Inuit friend.

Chapter Two of The Hunted: Polar Prey has Jeremy getting a cell phone call from his mom alerting him to a crisis. The ice floor she was getting samples from cracked sending her drifting out into the Arctic sea. She quickly gives Jeremy her coordinates so he can organize a rescue. But how? His father’s away in Churchill stocking up on supplies and, at age 12, what can Jeremy possibly do to save her? One of Sara’s talents, evident from Chapter One, is her economy of words. She never puts in too many or too few words, again something reluctant readers will appreciate. The story’s the thing here and it moves along as quickly as a snowmobile. Kras also provides the right amount of drama and description to keep it moving forward without over-embellishment.

Once Jeremy learns his mom is floating away and facing imminent danger without provisions or a weapon, and limited cellphone battery power, he knows he must face reality and figure out a plan. The only possibility is enlisting the help of Felix, Jeremy’s Inuit friend along with his dad, Mr. Tugak, to help. The catch is, that even if Mr. Tugak has access to a helicopter, he has stopped flying since a crash shook his confidence and spooked him enough to believe that a horrible curse had been cast over him. Things continue to get interesting as Paula’s piece of ice cracks some more and the polar bear we read about in certain chapters has begun to smell fresh meat. He gets closer and closer as fear begins to envelop Jeremy’s mom.

Kras cleverly incorporates Inuit words like tuvag, or sea ice, into the story and readers learn the immense power of tuvag and how it can kill, hence the urgency in finding Jeremy’s mom. She also explains that, since Mr. Tugak believes an evil spirit haunts him, a shaman advises him to change his name so the spirit can no longer find him. Somehow though, this is not enough to get him back into the helicopter. Fortunately, it’s the thought of not helping his son and his son’s friend that drives him to take action. As the threesome attempt first to locate Paula before they can even try to rescue her, it becomes apparent that this is a life or death situation, a race against time and nature.

Rather than spoil the story by giving away the ending, I will say I was very satisfied with the outcome and the realistic touches Kras did not hesitate to include. These elements are what will pull your reader in and keep him reading. The Author’s Note in the back matter gives details about the inspiration for the book and also gives some insight into polar bears’ behavior and how to find out more.

Come back next week to read my interview with Sara Louise Kras and learn more about polar bears, what else Kras has written and what we can expect to read next.

– Ronna Mandel


On Top of the World

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Debbie Glade reviews today’s title.

With the recent news that there is a decline in the production of science books for children and that climate change is threatening polar bears and other cold weather animals, I was so happy to read the big, beautiful book, North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration  ($16.99, Candlewick Press, ages 7 and up) by Nick Dowson. This essential book takes readers on a migrating journey over thousands of miles with a variety of animals – polar bears, grey whales, terns, geese, caribou and various types of whales. The book is written with such eloquent and clever prose, your child will be magically swept into the story . . . “Here in the winter, the sun sinks away, blizzards fill the darkness and even the seas freeze deep.” We learn how the animals migrate – whether on foot, by sea or by air – and what they eat, how they live and the challenges they face to survive. In the back of the book is factual information about the Arctic and a useful glossary of terms. The author is a teacher and a naturalist, and he certainly has a gift for getting children interested in animal migration just by the way he puts his words together.

Award winning illustrator, Patrick Benson captures the essence of Arctic wilderness with great splendor, making this an even more exceptional animal adventure for children and their parents alike.  The somewhat smoky pictures evoke the moisture and the darkness of the far, far north. Mr. Benson, who illustrated Roald Dahl’s, The Minpins, is an animal lover himself, as he lives on a 26-acre farm in rural Scotland.

I was not surprised to discover that Candlewick Press published this book. It is well written, educational, beautiful and sturdy – a perfect addition to any child’s library. I highly recommend it.