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Review: ‘Polar Bear Horizon’

In the library, young readers often choose books about animals. The Smithsonian series combines fictional stories about ocean and prehistoric creatures–just right for beginning readers–with pages of facts. In addition to Polar Bear Horizon, two other titles in the series that are also available in app format are Penguin Family and Woolly Mammoth in Trouble.

Title: Polar Bear Horizon
Author: Janet Halfmann
Adrian Chesterman
Published by:
Developed by:
Oceanhouse Media, Inc. and Smithsonian Institute
Smithsonian Oceanic Collection
iOS, requires 3.1 or later; Android, 2.1 or Up; Nook
iOS, 1.08; Android, 1.23.2
Price: $2.99

PreS-Gr 2-This app, based on the book of the same title (Soundprints, 2006), follows a mother and her two bear cubs as they emerge from their Arctic den in late March through the arrival of the winter snows. Over the course of the year, as the three head to the sea to hunt, they encounter snowy owls, ptarmigans, seabirds, seals, and a male polar bear. Along the way, the playful cubs continue to grow, learn to swim, and observe their mother hunting (not a drop of blood to be seen). An October blizzard signals that winter is imminent, and readers will learn why the bears are now prepared to hibernate.

The realistic illustrations include a stunning late summer scene depicting the northern lights in the background. Animation is slight (snow falling), but panning adds movement to many scenes. Sound effects include the roar of the mother bear when she encounters the adult male, grunts signaling warnings to her young, and the sounds of other animals.

Navigation is intuitive. A tap to an item or animal in an illustration will trigger the word to appear on the screen, giving emergent readers and English Language Learners increased opportunity for comprehension and fluency. The last five screens include numerous facts about polar bears (numbers, habitat, feeding, etc.), offering a contrast to the narrative approach of the story. This appealing title supports the Common Core State Reading Standards for Informational Texts for K-5.–Karen Jeremiah, Mary Scroggs Elementary, Chapel Hill, NC