Polar Bear Island – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: Polar Bear Island

Written by: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated by: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books, October 2018

Ages: 3-5

Themes: polar bears, immigration, inclusion, embracing difference, xenophobia, penguins



POLAR BEAR ISLAND was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.

But Kirby waddled where the wind blew, and today she was floating toward paradise.


When Kirby, a fun-loving penguin, arrives on Polar Bear Island, she shakes things up—much to the dismay of Parker, the mayor. Will Parker learn to see how great it is to make new friends? Or will he chase Kirby away . . . forever?  
“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? (Publisher)

Why I like this book:

Beyond a fun arctic tale, this is obviously a story about embracing change and differences especially when that comes in the form of people who look and act differently to you who want to join your community. This is achieved through humor as Kirby has so much to offer her new community and the vast majority are curious and not crabby like the mayor. I mean who wouldn’t be curious about Flipper Slippers kept feet warm but could reverse between skates and snowshoes? 

One of the fears of welcoming migrants is that this open the floodgates to hoards of relatives, especially in isolated communities like an island. So, of course Parker does invite some family members for a visit. But they turn out to be as fun as she is. It often takes a small or large calamity to see what an assets new immigrants in a town can be, and grouchy Parker’s accident paves the way for a change of heart. 

Pre-K and K children will enjoy the colorful setting, characters and message to include new kids into their midst. 

It is also a great mentor text for writers. Check out the humor, perfect page turns, pacing, surprises, and ending.

End papers – a teaser maybe?

I feel I do need to point out that you should probably explain (again) to your students that polar bears live near the north pole and penguins live near the south, so normally would not get to intermingle. 😉


Maria Marshall did a great PPBF review on this last month.

Here is a great interview with the author over on the GROG blog.

Sterling has an 8-page activity kit on their website website

Pair this book with the following picture books that teach children to include others:

    • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
    • I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
    • All The World by Liz Garten Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee


  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman 
  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
  • Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann

Read some of these stories in class then have groups create inclusion posters to welcome newcomers into their classroom.

This post is part of a series by authors and children’s literature bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.


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8 Responses to Polar Bear Island – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I love this book! It is so well done on both the writing and illustrating levels. And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s perfect that the two featured critters live at opposite ends of the globe. Cheers!

    • Joanna says:

      Yes, you have a good point that they are polar opposites. I think it is the teacher in me that gets on a soap box about that.

  2. I loved Lindsay Bonilla’s book. It is fun, but teaches some great lessons on getting along with others who are different. I like the growth we see in Polar Bear. The illustrations are precious.

  3. I really adore this book. Thanks for the shout-out Joanna. This book would be fun to pair with Patricia’s #PPBF book – “Ella & Monkey at Sea.” What a lively discussion one could have comparing Parker, the Polar Bear, and Monkey’s feelings and reactions. Love the other books you suggest as well. Great review.

  4. I love, love, love reading this book. It’s fun. And timely. And so imaginative.

  5. Patricia Nozell says:

    So happy to see you review this new immigration picture book. It’s in my “to review” pile, and I look forward to pinging back to your review. Great choice of companion reads, too!

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