Elementary: Great For All

The Very, Very Far North

Dan Bar-el
2020

Acceptance

Adventure

Friendship

Fun!

Kindness

Teamwork

Animals

Environment & Conservation

“One day, which is to say one Thursday, because all good stories start on a Thursday, Duane lumbered into the Very, Very Far North from somewhere else.” 

Pick any day of the week to begin your arctic adventure with Duane, the most friendly of all polar bears. You will also meet a colorful cast of characters: 

  • a snowy owl who loves science,  
  • a musk ox who loves his own reflection,  
  • a puffin who loves to march,  
  • an arctic fox who loves excitement,  
  • an arctic hare who loves to bake, 
  • a girl who loves her dog team, 
  • a painter who loves color, 
  • and a caribou who loves peace and quiet.  

Together, these disparate personalities make a community of supportive friends, but not without some bumps along the way.  

What might initially look like a simple animal point-of-view book is actually a rich and nuanced story of friendship, empathy, and respect. It might not seem that way when Duane and his fox friend Magic are on an ill-advised toboggan trip, careening down a mountain at break-neck speed. But when Duane – who loves bear hugs – comes up with the perfect way to express appreciation to C.C., the snowy owl who doesn’t like to be touched – a smile and three blinks –  you know this sweet story is more than meets the eye.  

“To say that Duane liked the ice and snow was putting it mildly…He loved lying in the snow and playing in the snow and sitting in the snow while staring at ice shapes in all their sculptural beauty. There might be many things that Duane could do without in the world, but snow and ice were not among them.”   

The arctic setting of this friendship story adds an other-worldly dimension to spending time with Duane and his friends. You will go on an arctic expedition without leaving home, watching the seasons change as the Cold, Cold Ocean becomes the Mostly Frozen Ocean and fields of wildflowers are hidden beneath deep snow. Kelly Pousette’s charcoal illustrations will have you wrapping up in a blanket as you snuggle in for this chilly tale.  

“You can have hopes and you can have goals, but a day will take you where a day wants to go.” 

Your students and their families will learn about resilience as Duane and his friends overcome physical and emotional obstacles with wit and finesse. You might find that some of the pearls of wisdom from Dan Bar-El become part of your community’s vernacular, providing a shared vocabulary for facing life’s challenges and celebrating life’s small victories.  

So, come for the funny animals and stay for the beautiful language and gentle lessons. Your families will be ready to jump right into the sequel – Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North – when they reach the end.  

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