The Very, Very Far North

TVVFN.Cover.Final (002) - Copy With illustrations by

Kelly Pousette

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!

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster)

Nominated for Alberta’s 2021 Rocky Mountain Book Award!

Selected for North Carolina’s 2020 Battle of the Books



“Pousett’s soft pencil illustrations work in absolute harmony with the text, accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of making this book even more endearing. Gentle humor, a personable narrative voice, and some elevated vocabulary fortify the simple, character-driven adventures, which will win over young readers in a heartbeat.” Booklist July, 2019 Starred Review



TVVFN - Junior Library Guild

“Each character is well developed and the kindness with which these friends treat each other is instructive without being didactic. . . . The rich language and wordplay make for an excellent read-aloud. Recommended, especially as a read-aloud, for fans of classics like A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, or for those seeking a solid demonstration of positive social interaction.”

School Library Journal, October 25, 2019 

“With the publication of The Very, Very Far North, Dan Bar-el has added to the distinguished company of lovable literary bears: Duane the Polar Bear can hold his white furry head high alongside such notables as Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington, Rupert, and Little Bear. … Bar-el has a cozy, intimate style of writing that immediately pulls the reader into Duane’s world. … Kelly Pousette’s black-and-white illustrations … portraying both the grandeur of the landscape and the eccentricity of the characters who live there.”

Quill & Quire, November, 2019

“The thing I love the most about this book is the way it uses character and wordplay to drive story forward. … Another thing to love is how each interaction–at least from Duane’s perspective–begins with equal parts respect and curiosity. … The Very, Very Far North has been out since September, but I suspect that aside from bedtime reading, it will also make an excellent Christmas present. It’s just the kind of cozy story that would fill wintery days with warmth and cheer. Recommended.”

The Book Wars, October 29, 2019

“A tender early chapter book that will appeal to young readers.”

School Library Connection


“I adored how the story was written, in both style and reading level. It was just enough that younger readers will be challenged, but not overwhelmed; while older readers won’t feel as if they are “reading down” by any means, and freely enjoy the tale before them.”

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers, Sept. 8, 2019

“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.

Randomly Reading, Sept. 4, 2019

The minute I started reading this book it became apparent that the writing style was quite unique. And enjoyable. … 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 … I loved the humor, illustrations, and the dialogue of each animal.”

Pick a Good Book, Sept. 2019

However, what is TRULY amazing about this story is the subtle lessons you learn while reading….keeping boundaries, listening to your instincts, and so much more….pretty sneaky and brilliant all at the same time! A beautiful story full of virtue, it’s timeless and will be a favorite bedtime read.

Insane About Books, Sept. 9, 2019

But what really won me over is the combination of how pure Duane’s journey is and the simple yet profound way his tale is told. It’s like Winnie the Pooh but for a new generation. Pretty sure it isn’t the first book of its kind out there, but there is something about the journey you make with characters that make you form a bond with them… and some of those bonds are for life. This novel is an anchor to remind you that things can be this simple, and that sometimes, days do get a change of heart and decide to take you want to go. This book is pure and I would definitely buy it for people with kids to help preserve whatever whimsy and wonder they have.

Alexa Loves Books (Macky Reads), Sept. 5, 2019

“The Very, Very Far North is one of those books you will read many times. Read at bedtime, you have two weeks’ worth of short stories (one per chapter). Each story is as humorous and memorable as the last. … Occasionally the narrator speaks directly to the reader. Those rare times are short and witty. The stories come alive as you read or listen (as the title suggests). The adorable black and white illustrations will delight children.
But . . . I must take the publisher to task. The media page for The Very, Very Far North states this book is a middle grade book, for age eight to twelve. I think the publisher got it wrong. Kids of all ages will love Duane and his friends, and the stories they have to tell. Think of all the kids who will never know Duane the polar bear. I’ll tell you how many. Every kid younger than 8 and older than 12, and that is a BIG number of kids who might miss The Very, Very Far North”

Kid Lit Reviews, September 19, 2019


Indigo’s Best Kids’ Books of 2019

10 Books that Teach Children Kindness and Empathy

Books to Read Aloud to 7-Year-Olds

Globe and Mail’s Best Bets for Children’s Books