The Polar Bear Scientists
by Peter Lourie

Price at time of review: $18.99
80 pp.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston, MA
ISBN: 9780547283050

Grade Level: 4-7

Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant

This is another in the much–honored series "Scientists in the Field" that has been named an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book. The reader learns about polar bears as seen through the eyes of the actual field biologists who gather data on this species.

One cannot stop looking at the amazing photos of the bears in their habitat as soon as you open up this book. Every page is filled with photos of scientists at work, the equipment they use, and a few maps. Through photos and text the reader can follow all aspects of the preparation, the capturing, the gathering of data, the release of the bears, and the analysis of collected data. The photos alone are really something to enjoy about this book. One great image compares the snow print of a human boot with the back paw print of a young male bear. These amazing photos are accompanied by very descriptive narrative that informs the reader about the many challenges these scientists have to overcome to do their job. It also makes the reader aware of why these people work so hard at what they do.

Relating the habits of the polar bear is important. Their decline in population is a major concern with the advent of global climate change and the loss of polar ice. Through deeper knowledge of their world, scientists might better address and hopefully reverse this decline.

Included with the narrative text are eight short, highlighted narratives. These narratives cover conversations with several scientists, the 2008 Threatened Species designation, a description about equipment needed, what is being recorded, such as biomedical impedance analysis, radio collars for the bears, and a look toward the future of polar bears. The narrative detail is very complete and there is no part of the capture process that is not described from start to finish. The book’s narrative details the rewards and the challenges of the process of doing science in a very difficult and challenging field situation.

This volume is arranged in five major sections grouped into first, information about the Polar Bear Research Project, two different capture experiences, recording information, and, lastly, the section called "Searching for the Bone Pile" which describes what researchers do when the data from the radio collars stops. There is a short glossary for terms that are already explained in the text and a page of basic polar bear information. At the end of the book are two pages of suggested books, websites and quotes sources, and a final page for an index. Due to the small print in the text, the even smaller photo caption print, the higher level vocabulary, and the large quantity of details, this book would be good for secondary level students either in a classroom or a school library. For a younger child, the photos would be a good draw for learning more about this species. For those readers who are concerned with our vanishing wildlife and want to know more about what is being done to save them, especially the polar bear, this book is a must–read.

Review posted on 4/17/2012

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