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The Very, Very Far North #1

The Very, Very Far North

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An inquisitive polar bear named Duane befriends an array of animals as he discovers where he belongs in this charming classic-in-the making that’s reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh.

In the Very, Very Far North, past the Cold, Cold Ocean and just below the hill that looks like a baby whale, you’ll find Duane and his friends.

Duane is a sweet and curious young bear who makes friends with everyone he meets—whether they’re bossy, like Major Puff the puffin, or a bit vain, like Handsome the musk ox, or very, very shy, like Boo the caribou. For these arctic friends, every day is a new adventure!


First published September 3, 2019

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About the author

Dan Bar-el

17 books88 followers
Dan Bar-el is an award-winning children’s author, educator and storyteller. His writing includes chapter books, such as The Very, Very Far North and Audrey (cow), picture books, such as Not Your Typical Dragon and It's Great Being a Dad, and graphic novels, such as That One Spooky Night and Dog Night at the Story Zoo.

For the past twenty-five years, Dan has been working with children ages 3 to 13. He’s been a school age childcare provider, a preschool teacher, a creative drama and a creative writing teacher. He’s developed a multitude of creative activities for children including movie making and a radio show involving school-age childcare centres across Vancouver. As a preschool teacher, Dan created Stories in Our Own Words, a program for 3 & 4 year olds based on the ideas of famed educator and author, Vivian Gussin Paley that fostered the development of the children’s own stories by recording them and then acting them as a group.

In the past, Dan trained and worked professionally as an actor, has written for theatre, as well as written and performed comedy across Canada. These days, when not writing or teaching writing to children through the organization CWC, Dan merrily travels around the country visiting many schools and libraries.

Hiking and travelling are two of his passions. In 2004, he completed the 800 km pilgrimage walk to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and more recently, he did the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in Peru. Cooking, baking and eating the results of said efforts are some of his others pursuits. Dan lives in Vancouver, BC with his wife, artist and goldsmith, Dominique Bréchault, and Sasha, the most adorable cat in the known universe.

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5 stars
458 (43%)
4 stars
403 (37%)
3 stars
170 (15%)
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25 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 235 reviews
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
884 reviews272 followers
January 4, 2020
This is a very cute chapter book for kids. There are lots of good, challenging vocabulary words, a few science moments and lots of morals about family and friendship. I enjoyed the Polar setting and our lead character, a Polar Bear, is easy to connect with. He moves to a new place and has to find a home, friends and discover what is all around him on his own. Luckily he doesn't stay alone for long and finds many adventures to go on.
A very smart thing done in The Very, Very Far North is that each chapter begins with a line saying what the last thing was that happened. This is clearly written to be read one chapter each night with a child. To me this is brilliant. Especially if you don't read the same book every night (ie: kids that live at different homes or time restrictions).
There are lots of good quotable lines like:
"You can have hopes and you can have goals, but a day will take you where a day wants to go."

Overall this is a cute book about finding your way in the big scary world and that sometimes just leaving your front door is an adventure. Each animal is unique and has its own characteristics (the anxious musk ox is a favourite of mine). Comparisons to Winnie-the-Pooh aren't wrong necessarily; but with the lack of a human character in the story there is more of a connection (I think) to our lead bear.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,197 reviews465 followers
October 18, 2019
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*

Duane the Polar Bear and his many friends live in the Very, Very Far North. This is the story of their many adventures together.

This was an adorable middle grade book with loveable characters you instantly fall in love with. Each chapter explores how Duane met each of his friends and how he gave them their names. There are so many life lessons built into the stories, I think it would be a perfect read-aloud book for kids. The illustrations are also a fun addition to the book and I loved getting to see the characters come to life. It definitely reminds me of Winnie the Pooh, but in the Arctic!
Profile Image for Lata.
3,434 reviews180 followers
December 6, 2021
A cute story of friendship and adventure. Handsome the musk ox (what a perfect name for this beautiful and hardy creature) stole every scene he was in.
Profile Image for Megan.
524 reviews
December 12, 2019
Read this with my seven year old. We didn't want it to end, she was so sad last night when we finished. This is such a cute story about Duane the polar bear and his friends in the very very far north. There are so many great learning moments in this book about making friends with a little bit of science and environmental awareness thrown in too. What really makes this book so lovable is the language. Although meant for middle schoolers, I think this one would appeal to all ages. I certainly loved it!
Profile Image for Emily.
Author 1 book573 followers
September 22, 2020

This book was just the cutest thing since Winnie the Pooh. In fact, it had a lot of the same feelings and evoked the same nostalgia as Pooh.

Duane is a Polar Bear who lives in the Very, Very Far North where he meets and befriends a bevy of arctic animals (and a few people) whom he gives delightful names. I adore the innocence, and the writing was beautiful. I appreciate that there was a lot of great discussion on being a good friend, and even some science and environmental topics.

This would make a fantastic read aloud for younger children.
Profile Image for Carla.
5,714 reviews121 followers
December 13, 2021
3.5 stars, rounded up. The Very, Very Far North is a cute chapter book for young readers/middle grades. It is the story of a polar bear named Duane. He has moved to a new place and has to find a home, friends and discover what is all around him. As the book begins, each chapter has him meeting a new character, getting to know them and giving them a name. Once all the characters are introduced, they have adventures or something happens to one of them. Scattered throughout the book are simple and cute black and white illustrations, showing the various characters in the story. It definitely helps to visualize what is happening. I had mixed feelings about this one. I read a few of the chapters with my 8 year old grandson and he seemed to enjoy it, but when I asked him about it afterwards, he responded that it was "okay". I think I enjoyed it more than he did. It is billed as a contemporary Winnie-the-Pooh, and I can see some reasons for that. There are some good lessons, especially about friendship. I do recommend this one, especially to be read one chapter at a time, over a week or so, perhaps as a bedtime story as it is a gentle read.
Profile Image for Lovely Day.
581 reviews75 followers
December 1, 2022

A polar bear has an adventure with some interesting arctic friends.

If you mixed The One & Only Ivan with The Wild Robot with the Phantom Tolbooth, you might get something like this one.
March 6, 2021
Absolutely delightful. Dan Bar-el has a way of writing that appeals to kids of many ages and makes for a great read aloud experience. This book is simple and sweet, but never boring. Definite Winnie the Pooh in the north pole vibes.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,946 reviews107 followers
September 4, 2019
One summer day, a polar bear named Duane wanders along the shoreline of the Cold, Cold ocean looking for a good place to nap until he reaches the Very, Very Far North. There he discovers a shipwreck, and living on it is C.C., a very smart snowy white owl, who is at the moment studying Latin verbs. After chatting a bit with her, Duane finds a suitable cave, so suitable, he decides to stay, furnishing his new home with items found on board the shipwreck.

Duane loves a good nap, but being a curious polar bear, he begins to explore his new home and soon enough meets a musk ox who is always and only deeply involved in admiring his reflection. He quickly becomes Duane's second friend, especially after he names the musk ox Handsome (Duane is very good at finding just the right name for everyone). Over time, Duane makes more friends. There's Magic, a very, very energetic, impulsive Arctic fox; Major Puff, a puffin who practises military marching for when the day comes and he has to retreat; and an Arctic hare Duane names Twitch, who keeps an immaculate home but is a worrywart, always on the lookout for danger. Into this mix of animals comes Sun Girl and her pack of dogs known collectively as The Pack, and a summertime painter Duane names Squint because of the way he studies the object he is painting.

The Very, Very Far North, which is just mesmerizing, is a series of character driven vignettes involving Duane and his new friends. Their adventures are affectionately relayed by a gentle-voiced narrator using direct address, creating what feels like a very intimate story time. Added to that are Kelly Pousette's simple black and white illustrations scattered throughout and complimenting the text. And it's easy to understand why Duane has been compared to Winnie-the-Pooh. Duane is a really good natured bear with a certain cluelessness that leads to some very funny situations.

But for all Duane's cluelessness, he is a empathic bear who recognizes the differences in his friends and just accepts and respects them for who they are. For example, Duane likes a good hug, but he knows knows that C.C. does not really like being touched, preferring to share her wealth of knowledge about nature and science instead; Magic's energy can overwhelm, but Duane manages to find constructive outlets for the hare.

The Very, Very Far North is a calming, cozy kind of book that would make an excellent read-aloud whether in school, or curled up under a blanket on a cool afternoon, or as a bedtime story, since each chapter can be read on its own. Personally, I love a good bear story and this one is just top-notch as far as I'm concerned.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+ (but works as a read-aloud for younger kids).
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Simon & Schuster
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,494 reviews58 followers
January 8, 2020
I absolutely loved The Very, Very Far North! Immediately after finishing it, I had to know if this was going to be a series, as I didn’t want this to be the end of Duane and his adventures in the Far Far North. This story captured my attention immediately and entertained me until I turned the very last page (make sure you read the letter from Duane at the very end). Filled with engaging adventures and exciting stories, this book made me laugh, smile, and touched my heart.

It wasn’t until after I read the book, did I read what others thought of this book. I have to agree with what many other readers reported, this book does have that Winnie the Pooh feel to it. As Duane makes himself comfortable in his new home in the Very, Very Far North, Duane has that comfortable, quizzical state about him and the adventures that he has, are quite fun and enlightening.

Duane loves three things in life: napping, eating, and exploring. For Duane, the polar bear, finding C.C. and the shipwreck was the perfect beginning for him. He learns and forms so many great friendships in the Very, Very Far North, I’m so glad that he went.

As they have new experiences, met new friends, and help each other, I enjoyed that there was no major rivalry or conflicts between them. Any struggles that they did have, were addressed, handled and then the parties dropped it. I also liked that each individual in the book was different and had their own personality. I really loved the way the book was written; it was reader friendly as the text spoke to you. I think young readers will enjoy this.

I can’t wait to read more about Duane, Major Puff, Magic, C.C., Sun Girl, Boo, Twitch, and Handsome in the next book. I’m really hooked on this book and think it would make a great read aloud for elementary-age children. I can’t wait to share it with others.

If you have young children, pick this one up. If you have grandchildren or work in a school-setting with young children, this is one you will want to look into. It definitely is a keeper!

“You or I might have responded to a polar bear crashing into our home with a little more alarm, perhaps. I won’t speak for you, but I would definitely have screamed at least once, or five times.”
Profile Image for Natalie.
59 reviews22 followers
July 28, 2020
Cute and witty. I think children would enjoy this book, and can understand the comparisons to Winnie the Pooh and Frog and Toad. Lots of humor, very advanced vocabulary, and clever conversations. There were also lessons to learn about accepting others for who they are, and standing up for yourself.

Profile Image for emmy.
442 reviews
August 23, 2019
This book is extremely charming. The characters are gentle and pleasant, and it would be a perfect read aloud, or as an early independent reading book for a child starting in on chapter books. It's certainly reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh, and I enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Tamara York.
996 reviews16 followers
February 2, 2021
All of the stars for this outstanding read aloud full of adorable heartwarming characters that form the sweetest of friendships. This Arctic Winnie-the-Poohesque story begs to be read aloud. Fantastic!
Profile Image for Jen.
29 reviews9 followers
December 28, 2021
A good friend sent this as my kiddo’s first chapter book. This was perfect for a kid who is a bit sensitive to things that are “scary.” It’s gentle and lovely and great for someone just starting to get into bigger books.
8 reviews18 followers
May 16, 2021
I read this to my third grade class and they immediately wanted more. They loved Duane's adventures and all of his interesting friends. It was a great read aloud!
Profile Image for Debbie.
809 reviews12 followers
January 11, 2020
The minute I started reading this book it became obvious that the writing style was quite unique. And enjoyable.

Duane the polar bear is ready to take the reader on a wonderful adventure. He meets new friends, discovers a talent for giving names to his friends, and loves to explore the very, very far north.

One morning as he strolls down the cold ocean shoreline he spots a shipwreck in the distance. Duane, who is quite inquisitive swims out and discovers an owl working in the unsubmerged captain’s quarters of the wreck. C.C., the name Duane assigns to the snowy owl, is studying so that he can acquire knowledge to share, “toward the benefit of all.” To prove it, C.C. immediately informs Duane that he is a polar bear.

There are plenty of humorous misunderstandings and each animal brings a unique personality to the story. As an example, Handsome the musk ox is often distracted by his own reflection. (Remember that Duane named the ox.)

The Very Very Far North contains quirky characters and is told in a very unique writing style.

What Concerned Me:
The whole time I was reading, I kept wondering about the content, vocabulary, and the grade level of the story. As cute as the book is, it didn’t feel like it all worked together. As an example here are some of the words in the book: lackadaisical, subsequent, archenemy, menace, scourge, excursion, chagrined, and enthralled, to name a few.

I wondered if the story would hold the attention of older kids and if the younger of the middle-grade kids could both read and understand some of the words.

What I Liked Most
I could easily see this being a book teachers might read to their classrooms. It’s so much fun, there’s plenty of opportunities to open discussions, and the teacher would be able to make sure any words or situations could be explained.

I loved the humor and dialog of each animal. And the illustrations make the book even more fun. This is a story that I could easily visualize the characters and even imagine it as a book for younger kids with a plush Duane-the-polar-bear being available for purchase.

More reviews: https://pickagoodbook.com
Profile Image for Heather Moore.
532 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2020
Read aloud with my 13 year old. I knew this one would be a little juvenile for her, but I was hoping the sweetness would win her over. It did, big time. This book reads like it was written by a teacher writing small stories to share with his students about the adventures of lovable characters from a world they all adore. Duane is the very best model of a good friend; he is kind and thoughtful and super respectful. The other characters bring the humor and each play a specific role, so it’s easy to assign them each voices for a wonderful read aloud experience. The author also addresses the audience directly throughout the book, which brings the storytelling vibe to life. Not to mention, there are so many moments that would make great extension activities for a kids or family book club. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Lisa D.
2,987 reviews22 followers
July 26, 2019
Cute book about friendship! A great adventure
51 reviews
January 7, 2021
My five year old and I enjoyed this lovely story of Duane the polar bear, his friends and their adventures.
Profile Image for Cadie Sommer.
572 reviews3 followers
February 8, 2021
For anyone teaching 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade this is a must read aloud! My students and I thoroughly adored the characters and the shenanigans they got into. Do yourself a favor and read this cute story!
Profile Image for Rebecca Berinstein.
325 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2021
This book was all kinds of magical. The description had it right calling the story a modern day Winnie the Pooh. My boys loved the included Arctic animals to begin with and even more so now!
Profile Image for Jennifer's.
90 reviews4 followers
February 4, 2021
Awwww-this book was just the sweetest. It is about a Polar Bear Dwayne and all of his little buddies in the Far Far North. Great for a read-aloud, so many fun voices to do. This is the perfect book for kids who need a funny, sweet, smart book without anything scary. My kids and I loved the illustrations and are looking forward to reading the sequel.
87 reviews
October 11, 2021
Fun read a loud with my younger kids. It's an arctic winnie the pooh. Adventures about a polar bear and his friends.
Profile Image for Megan.
201 reviews
August 22, 2022
We LOVED this book! I think it is my favorite chapter book we’ve read so far. The characters are wonderful and the story is just so endearing. Lots of good vocabulary words and not too complex of a story line for my 3 year old to follow. It was so entertaining I found myself eagerly anticipating picking it up each night. We will definitely revisit the Far Far North in the future.
Profile Image for Megan.
89 reviews
December 21, 2022
This is an absolutely delightful read. My kids (9, 7, and 5) and I laughed out loud many times as we read about the experiences of Duane the Polar Bear and his friends. There is no over-arching plotline or adventure or quest, just a series of stories of friendship. It reminds me of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, and I heartily recommend The Very, Very, Far North to anyone who loves Pooh Bear and friends.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Mellen.
1,417 reviews52 followers
March 1, 2020
This was adorable! It gave me some Winnie-the-Pooh vibes, which I loved. My 6 year old, who I was reading to, was not super interested in the beginning, but part way in she got much more into it and excited. I asked her what she would rate it and she also said 4 stars.
Profile Image for Mortisha Cassavetes.
2,077 reviews54 followers
November 22, 2021
This is such a wonderful winter story! I loved it. The book follows a polar bear named Duane that finds himself in a new area in the far north where he meets lots of new animal friends and gives them each names. This is definitely a book about friendship and a modern day retelling of Winnie-the-Pooh. I can't recommend it enough. It is great for kids of all ages.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 235 reviews

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