The Children’s Book Review | July 16, 2019
Written and Illustrated by Lily Williams
Age Range: 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Roaring Book Press (2018)
What to Expect: Science, environment, animals, global warming, and climate change
One of the purposes of really good children’s books is to raise awareness about potential futures for those who may have to live those futures, and while there is still time to change them. Climate change and global warming are pretty high on the list of these future crises, and Lily Williams’ If Polar Bears Disappeared asks children to consider the critical question of why they should care. It has appeared on shelves just at the same time as David Attenborough’s documentary Our Planet, produced in conjunction with the WWF, is making a splash with the very same question.
What makes If Polar Bears Disappeared so effective is the subtle use of visual cues. On the front cover, for example, the dotted red line around the bear mimics the “cut here” lines so often present in children’s activity books; not only does this cue wordlessly suggest the possibility of a world without polar bears, but it also implicates the child reader in their disappearance. The hint is minimalistic, but effective. Cheerful cartoon-like illustrations begin at the North Pole, in beautiful scenes teaming with life: narwhals, walruses and seals frolic alongside the bears, as well as an arctic fox, tern, and even arctic hares. The children in their bright winter clothing are enthralled by the life they see all around them. Progressive pages, however, show the effects of global warming on the bears’ habitat, and the reader sees images with fewer and fewer animals and less and less now, until finally only a loan bear family remains, stranded on a tiny island of ice amidst a vast ocean. The visual metaphor is forceful; walking readers step by step through the effects that global warming will have not only on bears but also on the entire planet, and by extension on themselves. The volume ends not with a feeble suggestion that the reader should recycle more, use less water, or turn out the lights, but with a powerful call for education about global warming. This is a timely and well-conceived addition to the genre of climate change.
You may also enjoy If Sharks Disappeared and If Elephants Disappeared (coming soon).
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About the Author-Illustrator
Lily Williams grew up in Northern California, where she graduated with high distinction from California College of the Arts with a BFA in animation. Her books for children include If Sharks Disappeared and If Polar Bears Disappeared.
Williams seeks to inspire change in the world, engage audiences, and educate all ages in her practice of visual development, illustration, and animation. Her work can be seen in film, print, and classrooms around the world, and has been used to get legislation passed in the United States Senate.
If Polar Bears Disappeared, written and illustrated by Lily Williams, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like If Polar Bears Disappeared by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Climate Change Books, Environmental, Global Warming, Lily Williams, Non-Fiction, Picture Book, and Polar Bears.