Winter is a perfect time for kids to study polar animals. The polar regions include both the Arctic and Antarctica. If you are looking for books about Arctic animals to read with your kids, I invite you to check out my reviews below. Note that some of the books reviewed below provide information about polar animals from both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, while others focus just on Arctic animals. My reviews below do not include any books focused solely on Antarctic animals.
Avati: Discovering Arctic Ecology by Mia Pelletier
This is a text-heavy, information rich book that would be best enjoyed by elementary students rather than preschoolers. Each spread includes lots of factual details about a particular aspect of the Arctic with specific focus on Arctic ecology. Readers will learn about life at the floe edge where landfast ice meets the ocean, survival on the sheer cliffs of the Arctic island coasts, and seasonal changes to the arctic landscape, among many other interesting facts. The text is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Throughout the book, certain words likely to be new vocabulary terms are italicized and definitions for them are included in a glossary at the back.
The Best Book of Polar Animals by Christiane Gunzi
This beautiful and detailed book is full of wonderful facts about the animals and habitats of the polar regions. The book includes lifelike illustrations to accompany the text. It starts by describing the two polar lands and then goes on to describe many of the animals that live in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Readers will learn wonderful facts. For example the wolf is one of the few mammals that live in the Arctic year-round, and the only mammals that live in Antarctica are whales and seals. Readers will also learn about steps being taken to protect the animals of the polar regions. A glossary of terms is included in the back of the book. The large amount of factual information contained in this book makes it most likely to be enjoyed by elementary age kids rather than preschoolers.
North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson
This is book tells the story of the Arctic seasons and the great migration that takes place each spring as animals from all over the world journey north to spend a summer in the Arctic. With the arrival of spring, sun, light, and warmth come back to the Arctic region. Algae blooms and plants appear. At the same time, grey whales in Mexico begin an eight week swim north to the Arctic waters. Tern birds begin a long flight from Antarctica to the Arctic, eating fish along the way. Caribou and grey wolves leave the Canadian forests to make the long walk to the Arctic. Walruses in Alaska make their way up the coast to feast on the shellfish lining the Arctic Ocean’s floor. These animals will stay through the summer. But once the days begin to shorten and the temperatures begin to drop in the fall, many will begin a return journey south for the winter. And then the pattern will repeat again the following year.
This is another book full of wonderful details about life in the Arctic, although the use of real images rather than illustrations sets this book apart. The book begins by defining what the two polar regions are, and then describes their climates. It describes how polar animals have special adaptations to survive in the cold and harsh environments. The book then explains how global climate change is causing the ice in the polar regions to melt, which is endangering the polar animals. Readers then learn about five specific polar animals that are currently endangered: the polar bear, northern royal albatross, Peary caribou, blue whale, and hooded seal. Bolded words throughout the book are defined in a glossary at the end.
Animal Babies in Polar Lands by Editors of Kingfisher
This adorable book filled with polar animal babies will amuse and delight young children. Each page features a picture of a polar baby along with a brief description, followed by “Who is my mommy?” For example, the first image shows a baby harp seal, describing her as having flippers instead of legs in order to swim quickly in the cold water. After turning the page, children learn that she is a harp seal pup and they see the difference between her white fur and her mommy’s brown fur. The book features a wide range of polar animals, including a harp seal, wolf, albatross, caribou, penguin, walrus, and polar bear. This book is an excellent and accessible introduction to polar animals for young children. Don’t be surprised if they want to read it again and again until they can guess all the animals correctly!
Polar Bears by Gail Gibbons
I’m a big fan of Gail Gibbons’s work, and this book is no exception. She has compiled a great deal of interesting facts about the Arctic’s most well known animal into a wonderful book that will delight elementary age children. I particularly liked the page on polar bear characteristics, where we learned that polar bears don’t have eye lashes because they would just collect ice. They also have small ears because large ears would freeze. This book covers a wide range of polar bear facts, from where they live, what they eat, how they catch their prey, and how mother polar bears care for their young. Polar bear fans will be delighted with all they can learn about polar bears in this comprehensive book.
Arctic Foxes by Emily Rose Townsend
When it comes to Arctic animals, polar bears seem to get most of the attention. But it is nice to learn about other Arctic inhabitants as well, many of whom have very interesting characteristics. This book focuses on the Arctic fox, a small mammal that lives year round in the Arctic. Arctic foxes are white in the winter and brown in the summer in order to look more like their environment in each season. I like that this book uses real photos of Arctic foxes on each page to give kids a realistic picture of this Arctic animal. The text is short enough to keep the attention of preschoolers. Kids of all ages will learn new vocabulary from the glossary at the back of the book.
Arctic Fox: Very Cool! by Stephen Person
In contrast the book about Arctic foxes by Emily Rose Townsend reviewed above, this book provides more in depth information about this fascinating Arctic creature. Thus, this book is more likely to appeal to elementary age students rather than preschoolers. This book discusses Arctic foxes from the perspective of Maarten Loonen, a biologist who travels frequently to the Arctic region. Using real photos of the Arctic fox, this book discusses how their fur changes throughout the seasons, how they eat, their family life, and threats to the Arctic fox.
Walruses of the Arctic by Sara Swan Miller
This book uses real photos to teach kids about the Walrus. This book covers information about where walruses live, what they look like, what they eat, their migration patterns, their preference for living in groups, and their endangered status. This book contains lots of factual information and is more likely to be enjoyed by elementary age children than preschool age children. Bolded words throughout the book are defined in a glossary at the end.
Who Lives Here? Polar Animals by Deborah Hodge
This book defines the Arctic and Antarctica as polar regions. Then each spread shares information about a different polar animal, including the Emperor penguin, Arctic fox, seal, snowy owl, musk ox, beluga whale, polar bear, walrus, and caribou. The limited amount of text makes this a more appropriate factual book for preschool age children compared to some of the other books reviewed here.
Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes
This fun rhyming and counting book will introduce young children to the animals of the Arctic in a delightful fashion that they can even sing along to, thanks to the sheet music included in the back of the book. Each page introduces one animal and an action that animal does. For example, polar bears roll, arctic hares thump, and walruses kick. Children will also enjoy counting the animals as the book goes from number 1 to 10. For parents and teachers, there are additional facts about each animal included at the back of the book along with additional information about the Arctic Tundra region. There is also a “Tips from the Author” section that includes additional learning activities to extend the lessons from the book.
Ice Bear and Little Fox by Jonathan London
This book tells of the symbiotic relationship between polar bears and Arctic foxes. Further, through this story, young readers will learn a great deal about polar bear eating habits as well as threats to the polar bear from other Arctic animals. The story follows a young polar bear who is on his own for the first time. We watch him as he attempts to hunt for seals to eat. All the while, an Arctic fox follows the polar bear in order to feast on any leftovers from a successful hunt. When summer arrives, polar bear enjoys going into the sea but it becomes a dangerous place for him. The polar bear is at risk from orcas and bull walruses, both of which will eat polar bears. Told as a story but containing lots of factual information, this book will be enjoyed by both preschool and early elementary students.
Waiting for Ice by Sandra Markle
Waiting for Ice is based on a true story about an orphaned polar bear cub that must compete with bigger, stronger polar bears to hunt for food. The cub is trapped with other polar bears on an island of land, and food options are scarce. The polar bears’ only hope of escape lies in a patchwork quilt of ice they hope will return as the weather turns colder. The cub grows thinner and thinner as the days and weeks pass. Occasionally she scavenges for food, but she is often hungry. Finally, however, the pack ice returns. Without a mother to teach her, the orphaned cub miraculously manages to learn how to hunt using the ice floes as resting places.
In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford
Adapted from “This is the House that Jack Built,” this rhyming book with cumulative prose will delight young readers as they learn about life in Arctic waters. The book follows a fish, beluga whale, narwhal, seal, walrus, and polar bear as they swim and frolic in the cold Arctic waters. But when an Inuit hunter comes out, the animals must scurry away! The back of the book includes a “For Creative Minds” section with additional information about Arctic life.
Living in the Arctic by Neil Morris
This book is not really about Arctic animals, but about modern life in the Arctic for the Inuit people who live there, formerly known as Eskimos. The Inuit have their own language, called Inuktitut. Elementary age Inuit children attend classes in the Inuktitut language, but high school classes are usually taught in English. Inuit children take classes in the same basic subjects as other kids such as math, science, and geography. But they also learn traditional Arctic skills such as how to build an igloo and other survival skills. The book also covers lots more information on Inuit life, including food eaten, transportation methods, and Inuit beliefs. The dense information presented makes this book most appropriate for mid-elementary age students.
The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale retold by Lydia Dabcovich
This book, based on traditional stories from the Inuit people of the Arctic, tells of the special relationship between an elderly Inuit woman and a polar bear. The old woman had no family to care for her, and often found it difficult to gather enough food to feed herself. One day when she was out on the ice, she met a polar bear cub. Believing him to be orphaned, the old woman brought the cub home, fed him from the little food she had, and named him Kunikdjuaq. As the polar bear grew, he became a very able hunter, and was able to catch enough fish to feed himself and the old woman. In fact, he caught so much that the old woman had plenty to share with her neighbors. But over time, her neighbors became jealous of the polar bear’s hunting skills, and they decided they would kill him. The old woman heard of their plans and begged them to reconsider, but they refused. So she went to Kunikdjuaq and told him to run far away where the villagers could not harm him. The polar bear did as instructed. But every once in a while, the old woman would wake up early and walk far out onto the ice. There, where no one else could see, she would call his name, and her polar bear son would come running to greet her in a warm embrace.
My Little Polar Bear by Claudia Rueda
This book, although a work of fiction, manages to tell a poignant tale of the bond between mother and child while also conveying factual information about polar bears at a level that is perfect for preschoolers. With short, simple text, this story begin with a young polar bear asking its mother, “Am I a polar bear?” The mother explains that her cub was born in the Arctic, has fur as white as snow, has large and padded feet, can walk on ice, and is a good swimmer. The little cub insists that there are many things he can’t do well, and its mother offers reassurance that she will stay with her cub and teach her cub everything it will need to know. The simple, blue and white illustrations that accompany the text underscore the beautifully simple nature of the story and the uncomplicated love a mother has for her child.
Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack
This is a fictional book that features a polar bear as the main character dreaming “of the places where sleeping bears go.” Told in a gentle rhyme, the story takes the polar bear from the ocean to the beach to a cave and more. Our polar bear protagonist gets to “swing through trees from a dangling vine” and “dive through the clouds to a town far below.” This is a beautiful story, but is not one that will teach children any factual information about polar bears.
The Snow Bear by Miriam Moss
The slightly textured pages of this book will appeal to young children who like to touch and feel things. The story focuses on a polar bear cub who cannot find his mother. He decides to make a snow mother to keep him company while he waits for his real mother to return. So he begins to gather snow. As he works, various Arctic animals come to help him, including a musk ox, a snow goose, a moose, a fox, a wolf, and a hare. Together, they finish the snow bear just before sunset. When the other animals go back to their mothers, the little polar bear cub snuggles up next to his snow bear for the night. And just as the snow bear has finished melting the next morning, his real mother reappears. “I knew you would find me,” the cub tells his mother.
Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson
One morning, a polar bear cub peeks out from her cozy den into the bright and chilly day. She ventures out to see what there is to see, and soon she sees a snowy something tumbling down a little snow hill. To her surprise, the snowy something turns out to be a little snow cub! The snow cub runs off, and the polar cub follows. They climb the snow hill together and tumble down it together. They jump into the sea together. And soon they become friends. This book uses very simple illustrations to convey a story of friendship in the Arctic. Readers will briefly meet other Arctic animals, but the focus of the story is on the budding friendship between the two bear cubs.
More Arctic learning resources
More Arctic animals posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- 9 Arctic animals learning activities
- Arctic animal videos
- Arctic Animals Printables Pack
- Arctic animals camouflage activity
- Where Arctic animals live activity and printable
- Arctic ice sensory play
- Build an igloo
- Blubber experiment to show how animals stay warm
- Arctic animals do-a-dot printables
- Arctic animals Bingo