The year is 1251, perhaps 1252, and the King of Norway gives the King of England a Royal Bear as a gift. The bear did arrive and lived many years in the menageries of the Tower of London.

This much historians agree on. But how did the bear actually make the journey?journey-of-the-pale-bear-9781534420779_hr

In the hands of Susan Fletcher, a gifted storyteller, the tale unfolds in rapid fashion and will have you turning the pages to see what comes next. I’d like to believe this is the way it really happened…

Twelve-year-old Arthur runs away from home to escape his less than welcoming step father and step brothers. His goal is Wales where his dead father’s kin supposedly are waiting for him. When he discovers a bear in a cage he doesn’t realize his life is about to change. He and the bear connect in ways no one has seen before and they end up making the harrowing journey to London together.

The thrilling tale is told through Arthur in fifty-three short chapters. It may be the book that breaks the stigma to middle grade kids that historical books are boring. I could barely put it down as the writing urges you to read one more chapter.

Read it aloud or treasure it alone. It’s a journey you won’t forget.

PUBLICATION DATE: October 2, 2018   PAGE COUNT: 304

THE OFFICIAL WORD on what to expect from Simon & Schuster Books:

The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.

Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?

Based on the real story of a polar bear that lived in the Tower of London, this timeless adventure story is also a touching account of the bond between a boy and a bear.



  1. Questions abound after the quiet last page, but you realize this is the way it must end.
  2. Life at sea is no picnic especially when you have a caged bear on board. The details of living and working on a 13th century ship is shown with brilliant world building.
  3. The doctor who befriends young Arthur was a heartwarming part of the story. His intentions went far beyond getting the bear to London.
  4. The cover is a winner. It’s a single scene that hints at the dangers ahead.
  5. You long to hear the Mother’s side, surely in deep pain at losing her son. But keeping it in Arthur’s viewpoint was the best way for readers.


Susan Fletcher is the acclaimed author of Journey of the Pale Bear; as well as the Dragon Chronicles, composed of Dragon’s MilkFlight of the Dragon KynSign of the Dove, and Ancient, Strange, and Lovely; and the award-winning Alphabet of DreamsShadow SpinnerWalk Across the Sea, and Falcon in the Glass. Ms. Fletcher lives in Texas. Visit her at Susan

The fact that the citizens of London in the thirteenth century were treated to the sight of a polar bear swimming in the Thames River just got me. It took a long time for the shape of the story to unfold, but eventually I came to this: We know, more or less, what happened to the bear at the Tower. But who was the keeper who came with the bear from Norway? And how did keeper and bear travel to England? And if the keeper actually swam in the river with the bear… There must have been some kind of unusual bond between them. How did that come about?

Journey of the Pale Bear is my imagined answer to those questions.

For much more visit Susan’s web site.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Oh, I have to read this. I love the way some writers can find some little nugget of history and turn it into a novel that will open kids up to history. Thanks so much for this review.

  2. Wow, I want to read this intriguing story. I can see why teens would enjoy this exciting adventure and piece of history. Thanks for the recommendations!

  3. Andrea Mack says:

    Intriguing! I’ll be looking for this one!

  4. This sounds like an amazing book, Greg! The cover is simply stunning. Thank you so much for sharing this with us for MMGM.

  5. it sounds really exciting from your review. And I love the cover.

  6. Pingback: The 2018 GOLDEN CUP AWARDS | Always in the Middle…

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