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A Subtle Call to Action for Planet Earth in Debut Picture Book Sea Bear, A Journey for Survival

81LHC9mePQLSea Bear: A Journey for Survival

Written and Illustrated by Lindsay Moore

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-279128-3

Grades PK – 5

Book Review

“Polar bears are patient beasts, as patient as glaciers. We know how to hope and how to wait.” Told from the point of view of a female polar bear journeying across the diminishing ice from winter to summer, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival is both poetic and gripping. In her debut picture book, author/illustrator Lindsay Moore has crafted a lyrical text complemented and extended by breathtaking watercolor and pencil illustrations. Each page offers readers a new glimpse into the polar bear’s psyche as she “outwaits seals, storms, and long, sunless winters.” As the seasons change and warmer weather melts the ice, the polar bear journeys for days nearly lost at sea, tired, and seeking land. Circular in nature, the texts ends as it began concluding with the polar bear whispering the opening lines of the text to her curbs as the sea freezes once again. Backmatter includes expository text about sea ice and polar bears including a call to action for readers to consider what they can do to help protect our planet and slow climate change. Also included is an illustrated page of other animals above and below the ice to further pique the curiosity of readers eager to learn more about the sea creatures featured in the polar bear’s journey. Simply bursting with teaching possibilities, Moore has given voice to polar bears and in doing so helps young readers understand the beauty and magnificence of these endangered creatures who lives depend on the sea ice. Fuel for the heart and mind, Sea Bear is a book students will want to return to again and again as growing readers, writers, and scientists.

Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom.

Endpapers Invite Predictions. Activate students’ thinking before even reading the story by closely viewing the endpapers which give us clues about the landscape and the journey the polar bear experiences each year. Encourage students to share their predictions about the polar bear’s journey based on what they see. What wonderings do students have already that might be answered through the story about where polar bears go and how they survive? What do students think the polar bears are searching for on their journey? Remind students that anytime they are reading picture books that the endpapers invite us to make predictions.

Word Detectives: Growing Word Knowledge. Moore weaves terms that are specific to polar bears and sea ice. Invite students to be word detectives by paying attention to new words they didn’t know before. Create a class list of new words the book introduces them to such as: floes, Arctic, terns, icebergs, school, tempest, and kelp. Support students to use context clues from the print and the illustrations to determine working definitions of these words. Use Sea Bear as a way to launch a new focus on growing word knowledge as a class. Following this investigation into new words in Sea Bear, encourage students to be word detectives in their own independent reading inviting students to add new words to a class bulletin board or anchor chart.

Reading With Purpose: What Does a Polar Bear Know? Sea Bear is a tribute to the grace and power of polar bears and their relationship with the oceans and sea ice. Throughout the narration, readers are poised to consider all of the knowledge that polar bears have and all that they are able to do. Support students to read with purpose by encouraging them to listen during a read aloud of the book for all the things polar bears know and are able to do. Create a Know/Do T chart that documents students’ thinking. Have a discussion as a class about how Sea Bear helps us appreciate animals in new ways. You may want to use this as an opportunity to invite students to research other animals, particularly those featured in the book, keeping in mind the questions: What do they know? What are they able to do?

Digging Deeper with Genre. Gather a variety of books about animals from your classroom or school library to explore the concept of genre with students. Sea Bear is a fictional story but it includes a lot of important information. Do they think that Sea Bear is fiction or nonfiction? Why? What about informational fiction? What do they notice about other the genres of other animal books in your collection? Engage students in a discussion about how Lindsay Moore’s choices as an author compel us as readers to care about the the polar bear because it is written as a narrative. What do stories give us as readers that information alone often does not?

Closely Reading for Craft Techniques. Sea Bear is brimming with possibilities for inviting students to study the craft techniques Moore uses blending narrative and information into one seamless story. Following repeated reading, invite students to zoom in on the many craft techniques that Lindsay Moore uses throughout the book including: repetition, simile, alliteration (“paddle past weary raft wary walruses”), and a variety of sentence structures. Support students to look back at their own writing for places where they can enhance their narratives by adding some of these craft techniques.

Imagine You Are…: First Person Writing About Animals. Sea Bear is a story told from the point of view of a mother polar bear. Support students to write from the perspective of another animal who has their own journey for survival. Activate student thinking with the phrase “imagine you are a ___” to get them thinking like the animal they most want to write about. Partner with a school librarian when possible to gather a variety of books on animals students are interested in learning more about. Read excerpts from an interview with Lindsay Moore’s about her creative process. Use Sea Bear as a mentor text to show students how they can imagine they are an animal by using language that points to first person narration, particularly  “I” and “we”. Support students to create picture books on their own or in partnerships that weave fact and fiction as Lindsay Moore does to tell their animal’s tale of survival.  

Watercolor and Pencil Exploration. Lindsay Moore’s watercolor and pencil pages are awe-inspiring including the Northern Lights scene and various birds’ eye views of the ice floes and Arctic animals. Have students share what their favorite page of the story is and why it appeals to them. Encourage students to use language that broadens their understanding of visual literacy by discussing the use of colors, lines, and perspective. Then, encourage students to create their own works of art using watercolors and pencils by drawing on the techniques they noticed Moore uses. Display student work in a watercolor gallery for students to admire one another’s artistry with these media.  

Critical Literacy

Polar Bear Investigation and Advocacy. Use Sea Bear as a book to launch a deeper investigation into polar bears and their journey for survival. First, engage students through a live polar bear camera. Encourage students to share what they see, what it makes them think, and what it makes them wonder about polar bears. Next, gather other books about polar bears like Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond, Polar Bears by Mark Newman, If Polar Bears Disappeared by Lily Williams, and Wild About Bears by Jeannie Brett.  As students learn more about the plight of polar bears, brainstorm with students ways they can advocate for polar bears by encouraging others to protect our planet. Help students to start an advocacy campaign by creating a class mural, designing and distributing flyers around the school, or by making an announcement on the school loudspeaker about what we can do to take action.

Endangered Bears. As students gain interest in polar bears, extend their learning to consider other endangered bears. Gather resources to help students research threats to various bear species, identified and suspected causes, and remediation efforts. The following texts will support students’ research: How Many Baby Pandas?, Search for the Golden Moon Bear: Science and Adventure in the Asian Tropics, Garden of the Spirit Bear: Life in the Great Northern Rainforest, Saving Yasha: The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear, andJasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears. *This invitation originally appeared in our Wild About Bears post.

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Interview with Lindsay Moore

Polar Bear Live Cameras

National Geographic for Kids 10 Facts about Polar Bears

San Diego Zoo Facts

KidZone Polar Bear Facts

New York Times Topic: Polar Bears


Barner, B. (2010). Bears! Bears! Bears! San Francisco, CA:: Chronicle Books.

Brett, J. (2014). Wild about bears. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Desmond, J. (2016).  Polar bear. Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.

Books for Young Readers.

Guiberson, B.Z. (2010). Moon bear. Ill. by E. Young. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Guiberson, B.Z. (2008). Ice bears. Ill. by I. Spirin. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Kvatum, L. (2013). Saving Yasha: The incredible true story of an adopted moon bear. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Markle, S. (2009). How many baby pandas? London: Walker Children’s Books.

Montgomery, S. (2004). Search for the golden moon bear: Science and adventure in the Asian tropics. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Newman, M. (2004). Polar bears. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Patent, D. H. (2004). Garden of the spirit bear: Life in the great northern rainforest. New York: Clarion Books.

Robinson, J. & Beckoff, M. (2013). Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears. Ill. by G.van Frankenhuyzen. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press

Sartore, J. (2007). Face to face with Grizzlies. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Swinburne, S.R. (1998). Moon in bear’s eyes.Honesdale, PA: Boyd Mills Press.

Swinburne, S.R. (2003). Black bear: North America’s Bear. Honesdale, PA: Boyd Mills Press.

Williams, L. (2018). If polar bears disappeared. New York, NY: Hachette Children’s Group.

Katie Cunningham About Katie Cunningham

Katie is a Professor of Literacy and English Education at Manhattanville College. There she is also the Director of the Advanced Certificate Program in Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Education. Her work focuses on children’s literature, joyful literacy methods, and literacy leadership. Katie is the author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning and co-author of Literacy Leadership in Changing Schools. Her book Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness will be released September 2019. She is passionate about the power of stories to transform lives.