Tigluk looks out his window and sees a polar bear in the distance. It is Nanuk. She looks straight at him and seems to speak to him “Follow me.” Tigluk and his grandmother paddle out in the ocean searching the ice floes for the bear. They discover, not Nanuk but her cub and Tigluk names him Pilluk (meaning to suvive). “With the melting of the ice, he is the last polar bear,” says Tigluk and cradles the bear in his arms.
This sad story by Jean Craighead George forces us to confront the serious issue of how climate change is affecting the polar bear habitat.
We used this powerful book to practice asking questions as we read and then looked at our questions critically – Did we find an answer in the text? By inferring, can we answer the question? Do we need to do more research? After discussing things, are we left with more questions?
Some of the questions we examined further:
How many bears are in the Arctic? Someone answered this quickly: “It was in the story: Just one left.” Then we talked further and realized we would have to do more research to find out the actual population. Questions were asked about whether polar bears are considered endangered?
If nobody found the polar bear, would he survive? Most people thought that we needed to do more research to answer questions like: How long do they nurse? What exactly do they need to survive? before we could infer because we don’t have enough background knowledge.
Why would the cub be all alone? To answer this question, we needed to use our own thinking and our background knowledge. Some students reminded us about what we had learned about polar bears in the book Winston of Churchill which was that polar bears could drown if the ice floes were too far apart. So we decided that maybe the mother had drowned while hunting for food because the ice was melting and she had too far to swim back to the ice floe where her cub was waiting.
Why did Nanuk choose a boy to look after her cub? For this question, we decided that we should infer. A suggestion was made that maybe Nanuk chose Tigluk because he was young and would have many years to care for the bear and maybe even help change things. Everyone thought that this made a lot of sense
Our questions and thoughts after discussing the book:
If there is only one bear, how will it mate? How will any more polar bears be born?
Is the world really getting too hot?
If the polar bear became used to humans and human food, could it ever go into the wild again?
How will the people in the village survive without polar bears? If other animals in the Arctic are also becoming endangered won’t this be hard on the people in the North who hunt them and use their furs and skins?
So much to wonder and think about from one very special book.