Book review

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell (2017)

Stella Starflake Pearl has been bitten by the explorers’ bug. She wants to be an explorer more than anything in the world. But she’s lucky because she’s almost more than half way there already:

...if she wasn’t meant to be an explorer, then why had the fairies given her a middle name? Everyone knew that only explorers had three names.

Actually you might think it’s not so much exploring as going home. Stella is a snow orphan. If Felix hadn’t found her when he did and brought her back with him she might well have died out there alone in the forbidding Icelands. I think he must be the best adopted father anyone could possibly have. He lets Stella gallop round the grounds on her pet unicorn, build a fort out of books in the library and eat ice cream for breakfast on her birthday. The only teeny little problem is that he won’t take her with him on his next expedition to the Icelands. The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club rules absolutely forbid it...or they did, until Felix persuades the Club President to allow one small exception:

‘And if anything goes wrong with the expedition as a result, then I will certainly lose my membership of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. Do you understand?’

What could possibly go wrong? It’s not as if the four junior members of the expedition alone on a runaway sled with untrained wolves would career wildly across a dangerous collapsing ice bridge and find themselves marooned on the other side of a vast and yawning chasm...would they? Oh, yes, that could happen:

Ethan shook his head and kicked the side of the sled. ‘This is the worst expedition ever!’

They’re not best friends at the beginning but they will be by the end of this adventure. The four junior explorers learn a lot about themselves and each other as they encounter wild, weird and downright dangerous magic in the Icelands:

...Stella snatched up the only weapon within her reach, which happened to be the moustache spoon. It was actually quite an effective object for smacking any frosty that came near, and the thud they made when they hit the spoon was extremely satisfying. There must have been a hundred frosties, though, and it was a difficult thing for four young explorers armed only with a moustache spoon, a boomerang, some jelly beans and unrealiable bean-and-arrow magic to fend them off forever.

The magic is all a bit bonkers but the people are surprisingly real...lovable, awkward, charming, spiteful, all mixed up. It takes an effort to rub along together at first but they all have their reasons.

‘Give him a chance,’ Felix insisted. ‘It doesnt’t do to judge others too hastily. And sometimes people are fighting battles we know nothing about. What does it cost us to be kind?’

What can I read next?

Took me by surprise a bit, this book. I thought I was just going to read a little bit of magic, enjoy the story and put the book away. Didn’t realize some of that magic was going to rub off. It’s the people. I lenjoyed meeting every single one of them. Even the difficult ones. This is part one of a planned trilogy, to be published in due course, so we’ll just have to wait for it:

  • The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club
  • To be announced
  • To be announced

You only need a little bit of magic for a massive adventure. Have a look at this epic trilogy by Piers Torday:

Or this crazy, beastly mystery by M G Leonard:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club features in these lists: