This book was warmly, vigorously and insistently recommended to me. And because I love Middlegrade books and also because I actually saw that they had a signed copy at Owlcrate I just really had to take the opportunity to add this book to my collection. The few artworks inside are absolutely lovely.
Stella Starflake Pearl knows, without a doubt, that she was born to be an adventurer. It’s too bad girls are forbidden from becoming explorers. But Stella’s father has never been one to play by the rules. Leaving behind her pet polar bear, Gruff, and beloved unicorn, Magic, Stella and Felix set off on an expedition to the snowy Icelands. There, Stella plans to prove herself as a junior explorer, worthy of membership in the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. So when Stella and three other junior explorers are separated from the rest of their expedition, she has the perfect opportunity. Can they explore the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?
Lately I have come to realize one thing: I love books that have to do with ice and snow. I mean, I’ve always loved winter and watching snowflakes and taking winter walks so that should have been a given, but reading this book I’ve just really realized it. I have actually quite a lot of books that have to do with ice and snow and The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club is a nice addition.
Stella wishes for nothing more than to be allowed to come with her adoptive father on one of his expeditions and finally, after a great deal of convincing a league of old men, she becomes a Junior Explorer of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club and goes on her first expedition. Which, as soon as they arrive at the infamous Icelands, goes horribly wrong.
This book is full of magic and new things. I can’t describe it any other way. It’s full of imagination, snow and ice and adventure. While some of it might seem familiar, like sleds, ships and the whole idea of expeditions, there were some things that put a new twist to it. Sleds are pulled by wolves not dogs, unicorns and fairies are a thing and Stella’s compass doesn’t show North or South but the way to shelter, food or extreme cold.
The more I think of it while writing this review, the more prominent becomes the one thing about this that kept nagging me while reading. At some points the book just felt overloaded with details. Some of the details were very fitting, fun and made the book the whimsical story it was at the end. Others were just too much. It made the book feel crowded and sometimes I kept asking myself if it was really necessary. For example, while I loved the idea of Whisperers, I just fail to see why trees that grow marshmallows were necessary as well. Or: While some of the appeal of the story comes from the author taking some things literal, some other things were superfluous.
Moving on: I quite liked the characters of this book. Felix was a great father in my eyes. The group of junior explorers were a great cast, especially Shay and Beanie, the latter very intersting for his apparent austim rep. While obvious to me, it didn’t seem out of place at any time. I found Ethan quite intriguing because it was apparent that there was something going on with him and I was curious to find out what it was exactly. Stella seemed to behave much younger than her age to me but that is just my personal opinion.
In total, I found myself quite enjoying this book, even if I found some flaws in it. I might not give it the glowing review that my friends who recommended it gave but I see its appeal and a child of the right age group surely won’t find anything wrong with it. The adventure, the Icelands, the frosties, the cabbage – yes, you heard correctly, the CABBAGE – there were many things I thouroughly enjoyed and it was a fast and entertaining read.