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Science Comics: Polar Bears: Survival on the Ice

Review

Science Comics: Polar Bears: Survival on the Ice

written by Jason Viola with illustrations by Zack Giallongo

There are currently more than a dozen books in First Second’s Science Comics series and many more coming; the topics range from dinosaurs to rockets and, now, to polar bears. Just like any other series that features different authors and illustrators the quality and appeal of each book in the SCIENCE COMICS series varies. I have read some that I loved and some that I didn’t. POLAR BEARS: Survival on the Ice written by Jason Viola and illustrated by Zack Giallongo is one that I love.

"In POLAR BEARS, Viola and Giallongo strike the perfect balance between information and story, serious and funny, and text and illustrations."

Unlike some of the other SCIENCE COMICS, in POLAR BEARS, Viola and Giallongo strike the perfect balance between information and story, serious and funny, and text and illustrations. In other books in the series I have found that the story itself wasn’t compelling or it was incongruent with the information and therefore bogged down the conveying of information. While other books in the series tried to pack in way too much information and information that was beyond the depth of the intended audience, therefore, defeating the purpose of the SCIENCE COMICS series. Neither of these was an issue in POLAR BEARS: Survival on the Ice.

This story features a mother polar bear and her two cubs, Anik and Ila. Each of the cubs has its own personality and their personalities lead to much of the humor throughout the book. The mother polar bear is teaching her cubs about what it means to be a polar bear, their environment and how to survive in it. The lucky reader gets to learn alongside the cubs.

Viola and Giallongo worked well together to integrate both levity and gravity in regards to the very real plight of polar bears. The beginning of Chapter 4: “What’s Happening to Me?” serves as an apt example of this balance between dark and light. On page 69, the trio crosses paths with an emaciated male polar bear. The cubs have learned to be wary of other polar bears, especially males, but mother says, “He doesn’t have the energy to bother us. He’s starving” (p. 70). The cubs worry about the starving male and question why its mother isn’t with him. The mother bear explains that when cubs reach two and a half years old, or the subadult stage, mother bears leave their cubs as she has taught them everything she can. Page 72 portrays one of these “abandoned” subadults as a punk/emo looking “teenage” polar bear with pink dyed hair, a nose ring, black eyeliner and black fishnet gloves on its front legs. The gravity of the starving polar bear is counterattacked just a few pages later with this image of a punk/emo “teenage” polar bear.

I highly recommend POLAR BEARS: Survival on the Ice for readers who like polar bears as well as those who don’t know anything about polar bears, for readers who enjoy nonfiction and readers who like funny books, and for fans of graphic novels and for graphic novel newbies. I look forward to reading more books in the SCIENCE COMICS series and hope that the new ones are as great as POLAR BEARS: Survival on the Ice.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on January 30, 2019

Science Comics: Polar Bears: Survival on the Ice
written by Jason Viola with illustrations by Zack Giallongo