Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher is a juvenile fiction book best for 4-7th grade. When a great white bear is to be a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England, she is called a royal bear. When Arthur, a twelve-year-old runaway, first comes in contact with this bear, he is terrified. Miraculously, the bear doesn’t harm him, instead she lets him near and when no one else but Arthur is able to calm the bear, he is recruited as her caretaker for the sea journey from Norway to London. As he continues to care for the bear, Arthur realizes that there is some connection between them, an understanding he cannot name. But the journey is fraught with peril and when the bear has a chance at freedom, will she take it or choose to save this human boy she has come to care for. Based on a true story of a great white bear who lived in the Tower of London, this book displays the bond between a boy and a bear.
1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
2. Why is this book considered historical fiction? Do you know of any other books the fit in this genre? What historical events do they cover?
3. What are some of the reasons why Arthur runs away from home? Do you think he should have put so much faith into a letter he couldn’t even read?
4. Arthur and the bear seem to share an instant connection. Think about the bear’s experience in a cage and away from his natural habitat. Why do you think Arthur relates to the bear’s situation?
5. Arthur’s father died, leaving a large hole in Arthur’s life; Arthur imagines that the bear may also have been separated from her cubs. Why is family, or the lack of family, such an important part of this novel? How does it drive the characters’ actions?
6. When Arthur finally tells someone that Hauk took his letter, he leaves Ottar out of it, saying, “I knew what it was to be the weak one.” After they are bullied, people often go on to be bullies themselves. Why do you think that Arthur wants to protect Ottar instead of getting revenge? How is Arthur’s kindness rewarded later in the book?
7. Did you already know about the King of England’s menagerie? What animals do you think the king might have?
8. Freedom is an important theme in this book. When the keeper explains that some animals “languish” in captivity, what is he saying? Can you name some of the different types of cages, real or figurative, portrayed in this book?
9. Are there potential downsides to being free, both for people and for bears? Explain?
10. What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised by how the story ended? Think back to the prologue.
DYI Paper Boat and Moving Horse
Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. Paper was first invented in China around 105 A.D., and was brought to Japan by monks in the sixth century. It was original used for ceremonial purposes and has flourished since. Today origami can employee the use of mathematics and engineering and even computer science to create these intricate designs.
Supplies needed: Several sheets of paper, scissors, a ruler and a pencil. If you have origami paper that will work too.
First, I am going to show the kids how to make an easy origami boat. The reason we are going to do this one first is because I want us to truly be successful at one of our paper crafts. The walking paper horse can be a bit difficult to get right the first or second time and I think we’ll have time to do both. So the boat is going to be a warm up.
PS. check the sources, there’s a link for the origami bear, that I would have loved to use, but it was really hard!
This is the site I am going to go off of for the folding: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/origami-sail-boat-tutorial-2540983
Next, we will try the walking paper horse. This one takes some precise measurements and some trial an error with the surface and incline the horse walks on. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun if we can get it to work.
This is the site I am going to reference: https://frugalfun4boys.com/paper-horse-that-walks/
How’d it go:
Oh man, I don’t know why but I could not recreate my paper boat! I gave the kids the link to try from home. But our paper horse worked out pretty well and I think the kids are going to keep trying to perfect it. They did walk at least a little bit by the end.
That’s all for now!