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The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg

From a Carnegie nominated author, a brilliantly funny and touching story about a boy who finds a polar bear in his parents' freezer. How did Monty get there? And who is Monty? Official name, Wilbur Ambrose Cedric Reginald Montague, the Third; Monty to his friends. A huge polar bear who talks like he might have swallowed a dictionary as well as a library - he has read more books than Patrick knew existed -and whose stomach is always rumbling. ALWAYS. But how is Patrick going to feed him on his pocket money that does not stretch much further than a few tins of sardines?

The Boy who sailed the ocean on an iceberg by Emily Critchley is an enjoyable read which is light hearted and fun but has a lot of hidden depth. It's almost like an iceberg itself as there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than you can immediately see.

I found the book entertaining enough when I started reading it. It was quirky almost immediately, which I liked. Patrick, the main character finds a polar bear in his garage. The polar bear, Monty, is not what you would expect and Patrick soon finds out that he is a very strange guest, who thankfully is probably not going to eat him. He does have a fondness for condensed milk however.

As I read the book, I initially wasn't sure where it was heading. There is a lot of scene setting as we are introduced to Patrick and Monty and the issues that effect Patrick's life are hinted at then gradually revealed. But it was as the story developed that it really hooked me and I found that by the final act I couldn't put it down.

The story is funny and Patrick is a charming character, a year 7 boy learning to cope with the challenges of high school. But as it goes on, you find that the issues he is dealing with are actually quite serious (and I don't mean the polar bear in his garage). His best friend moved away just before they started high school and Patrick is floundering a bit to find his place; another boy Jake is bullying him and he has no idea why. His mum is struggling to come to terms with losing her baby (Patrick's sister was stillborn) and is clearly suffering from serious depression. All of these issues gradually come to the fore whilst Patrick is attempting to deal with immediate the problem in front of him-the polar bear in his garage.

This is what I mean by the story having hidden depths. It never stops being funny, but there are also moments of tenderness and sadness. What I really liked about the book is that the reasons for characters behaviour is explored, helping to develop empathy not only for Patrick but for others like Jake the bully and Mr Crankly, the grumpy elderly neighbour (who was probably my favourite character by the end).

This is a book that makes you think and is full of empathy. The lessons in the book are about not judging people by appearances and in learning to accept people as well as learning to believe in yourself. Patrick finds himself and his place in the world in this story, he grows in confidence and really develops as the story progresses.

The Bear who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg is out now. I can recommend it for aged 9 and above.

You can order it here:

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