From Carnegie nominated author, Emily Critchley, comes her first novel for middle grade readers, a brilliantly funny and touching story about a lonely boy who finds a polar bear in his parents’ freezer — the perfect heart-warming story to curl up with this winter.
How did Monty get in the freezer? 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? And how to protect him from neighbours like Mr. Crankly who might report him? And if that isn’t enough, Patrick is taking care of his mum who suffers from depression, and his dad isn’t there. But there is always Monty.
Questpost: Friendship by Emily Critchley
Friendship is a major theme in my first book for 9-12s, The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg. Twelve-year-old Patrick finds Monty the talking polar bear in his garage, and although concealing and feeding Monty becomes a a huge problem, the two form a strong friendship amongst all the chaos.
Monty arrives at a time in Patrick’s life when he is feeling very alone. His mum is suffering a bereavement and Patrick is being bullied at school. He is definitely in need of a friend. As a child I often wondered what it would be like to have a special friend, someone not quite of this world or an animal who could communicate. The image of a polar bear living in a garage popped into my head and wouldn’t go away. I knew I would have to write the book!
Through his friendship with Monty, Patrick is able to find the courage to confront his parents about their relationship, and he learns to worry less. As I was writing the book, I was very aware that (spoiler alert!) Monty would have to return home at the end. I decided Patrick also needed a human friend, someone his own age who would still be there went Monty went home. I created the character of Sammy who becomes Patrick’s friend at school and helps him to speak out about the bullying. Sammy and Patrick become outsiders together. They won’t let the bullies define who they are.
I’ve always loved stories about friendship, and not only books but films too; ‘buddy’ films as they are called in the film industry. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., are all films about friendship, often unlikely friendships with two opposite misfits coming together to achieve their goal. When I was a child I was also particularly fond of stories featuring friendships between animals and humans such as Free Willy and Andre and I combined these two loves (friendship stories and animals) to create my first book for 9-12s. I wanted the book to have plenty of heart alongside the humour, for it to be a contemporary story but also a story I would have loved at that age.
The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg is a tale about the power of friendship; how it’s always worth the effort, and the joy and hope it can bring. I hope to leave readers with the sense that all can be well in the world if you have one good friend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Critchley grew up in Essex and now lives in Hertfordshire. She left school at sixteen and worked in various shops and call centres where she jotted down ideas for short stories on scraps of till roll. She studied creative writing at London Metropolitan University and graduated with a first-class honours degree, she now works as a school librarian. Her poetry and short stories have been published both online and in magazines. This is her first middle grade novel.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyMCritchley and Instagram @emily.critchley and find out more at emilycritchley.com and everythingwithwords.com
- Previously Reviewed: Notes on my Family
THE BEAR WHO SAILED WHO SAILED THE OCEAN ON AN ICEBERG by Emily Critchley is out now in paperback (£7.99, Everything with Words)