CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009
Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World is the real-life story of a young polar bear cub born in captivity on December 5, 2006, at the Zoo Berlin in Germany. The tale –– written by Craig and Isabella Hatkoff (of Owen & Mzee fame) and now joined by Juliana Hatkoff and Dr. Gerald R. Uhlich –– takes the reader through the first few months of little Knut's (pronounced K'-noot) life –– from his birth and rejection by his polar bear mother, to his adoption by chief bear keeper Thomas Döörflein, to his steady growth into a strong and playful young bear. It is not clear which sections are written by which of the four individuals credited, suggesting that the text was written collaboratively. The language used is simple and yet captivating to both child and adult readers alike, as small nuances in the phrases –– such as "With his bright black eyes, he look around at everything" –– capture the wonder with which Knut explores his new world. With each passing page, the reader grows more and more proud of Knut and his successes. It is almost as if Knut has become the reader's child-bear as much as he has become that to Thomas. Readers become privileged to special information about Knut's daily steps, and, therefore, personal information about the life lived by his caretaker for the first few months of Knut's existence.
The candid photographs of Knut and Thomas are featured as prominently, if not more so, as the words of the story. Each photograph is accompanied by a caption that contains factual information about polar bears as related to the conditions set up for Knut at the zoo (e.g., "Snow dens in the wild get very warm –– up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit –– so Thomas was careful to keep Knut toasty."). The photographs vividly capture both Knut's personality as being playful, vivacious, loving, curious, and mischievous, as well as the deep bond between Knut and Thomas and the ease with which they seem to relate to each other; and the stories and events as they progress. The photos make the reality of the story come alive for the reader and, therefore, are the most important feature of this book. The book, itself, is cleanly designed with bright colours that complement the photographs, making them stand out, and they draw the reader's focus to the content rather than to the design, itself.
Shari Klassen is an early-years teacher in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.