Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews
Polar the Titanic Bear
Illustrator: Laurie McGaw
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 and up
Little Brown, 2001 ISBN: 978-0316809092
Polar wonders what is going to happen to him now that he has been taken out of the toy shop. He soon finds out when he is given to a little boy as a gift. Douglas’s Aunt Nannie gives him the bear just before the boy and his family leave for an ocean voyage. Douglas, or "Master" as Polar calls him, is going to Portugal with his mother, father and his nurse, Nurse Boons.
Polar and his little boy have all kinds of adventures going on trips to all sorts of fascinating and wonderful places. Together they enjoy the beach in Bermuda, seeing the canal in Panama, having a party in Algiers, riding the cable car in Monte Carlo, and gazing at the Eiffel tower in Paris. Then there are the days at home in America, sledding and building snowmen at Douglas’s home in Tuxedo Park in New York.
Douglas particularly loved Paris and was disappointed when it was time to leave the great city. Still there was a wonderful trip to look forward to for the entire family was going to go home to America on the new ocean liner, the S.S. Titanic. It is the biggest ship in the world and full of all manner of luxuries and interesting things to do.
Douglas and Polar have a wonderful time exploring the great ship but on the fifth night at sea everything goes terribly wrong. The Titanic hits an iceberg and begins to sink. Douglas, holding Polar, his mother, his nurse, and his father are among the lucky people who are able to get off the ship before it sinks.
Told from the point of view of Polar, this wonderful true story was written by Douglas’s mother Daisy. She gave her son the story for Christmas in 1913 and the little homemade book was later found by her relative who arranged to have it published. Daisy was a prolific writer and photographer so the book includes lots of pictures of Douglas and his family on their travels. Wonderful illustrations capture the extraordinary lifestyle enjoyed by Douglas and his parents and an epilogue at the back of the book goes on to tell the reader more about Spedden family and their time on the Titanic. We also learn that Douglas’s life was cut short when he killed in a car crash three years after the sinking of the Titanic.
This book beautifully captures the mood of early 1900’s and we see how differently people lived in those days, how strong the class system still was, and how optimistic and hopeful people were then. They truly believed that the Titanic was unsinkable and the loss of the ship changed the way they saw the world forever.