Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows

Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows

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by Zac Unger
     
 

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“I like to go out for walks, but it’s a little awkward to push the baby stroller and carry a shotgun at the same time.”—housewife from Churchill, Manitoba

 Yes, welcome to Churchill, Manitoba. Year-round human population: 943. Yet despite the isolation and the searing cold here at the arctic’s edge, visitors from around the

Overview

“I like to go out for walks, but it’s a little awkward to push the baby stroller and carry a shotgun at the same time.”—housewife from Churchill, Manitoba

 Yes, welcome to Churchill, Manitoba. Year-round human population: 943. Yet despite the isolation and the searing cold here at the arctic’s edge, visitors from around the globe flock to the town every fall, driven by a single purpose: to see polar bears in the wild.

Churchill is “The Polar Bear Capital of the World,” and for one unforgettable “bear season,” Zac Unger, his wife, and his three children moved from Oakland, California, to make it their temporary home. But they soon discovered that it’s really the polar bears who are at home in Churchill, roaming past the coffee shop on the main drag, peering into garbage cans, languorously scratching their backs against fence posts and front doorways. Where kids in other towns receive admonitions about talking to strangers, Churchill schoolchildren get “Let’s All Be Bear Aware” booklets to bring home. (Lesson number 8: Never explore bad-smelling areas.)

Zac Unger takes readers on a spirited and often wildly funny journey to a place as unique as it is remote, a place where natives, tourists, scientists, conservationists, and the most ferocious predators on the planet converge. In the process he becomes embroiled in the controversy surrounding “polar bear science”—and finds out that some of what we’ve been led to believe about the bears’ imminent extinction may not be quite the case. But mostly what he learns is about human behavior in extreme situations . . . and also why you should never even think of looking a polar bear in the eye.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Dan Rubenstein, Canadian Geographic
“Zac Unger's deep dive into the health of polar bear populations around the world cuts through the sound-bite science typically reported by the mainstream media to explore the truth about the status of this species. It's also a very engaging and entertaining book to read—no small feat when tackling such complex subject matter.”

Parents, February 2013
“[A] hilarious and informative memoir… Cozy up to a fire and check out this funny, insightful wintry read. Fans of Wild, Into the Wild and other outdoorsy tomes will love Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye.

Shelf Awareness
, 2/1/13

“Well-researched, highly detailed… Unger’s prose is gritty, sometimes snarky, but well-intentioned… Since few of us will ever see a polar bear in the wild, Unger gives us a close a look as we’re likely to get.”

San Jose
Mercury News, 1/31/13“In this amusing and informative account of their two years in a tiny town, the author interacts with tourists and locals, scientists and conservationists—and, of course, the bears themselves.”

Topeka Capital Journal, 2/7/13
“Part travelogue, part history lesson and part memoir, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye bear-ly scratches the surface of ecopolitics, too, although author Unger surely tries to look at the subject from all sides. Unger is serious in the research he presents, but that’s about as far as the solemnity goes: This book will make you laugh, it will entertain you, and it will make your heart pound just a little.  It’s also a good argument-starter, so if you’re looking for discourse on global warming, you’ll find it here. Read Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, because even in the snow, nothing is ever black and white.”

Winnipeg
Free Press, 2/2/13“[An] often hilarious but deeply informed page-turner.”

San Francisco Chronicle, 2/10/13
“An engaging book that’s equal parts adventure story, family memoir and environmental expose.”

Lawrence Eagle Tribune
, 2/10/13

“This book will make you laugh, it will entertain you, and it will make your heart pound just a little.  It’s also a good argument-starter.  So if you’re looking for discourse on global warming you’ll find it here.”

San Francisco Book Review, 2/12/13
“[Zac Unger is] quick with a witty twist of a phrase.”

Yahoo.com, 3/4/13
“Entertaining…More than an adventure story and beyond a cautionary tale, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye provides food for thought for anyone concerned about the future of our planet and its creatures… an intriguing story of a man's search for the facts told with a healthy dose of common sense.”

Brown Alumni Magazine
, 3/1/13
“A self-mocking and witty observer, Unger learns as much about scientific politics as he does about bears.”

Maclean’s, 4/1/13
“[A] hilarious book about the process of becoming disillusioned.”

BBC Wildlife Magazine
(UK), April 2013

“[A] frequently bitingly accurate look at the circus that surrounds the polar bears’ presence, and at the animals themselves, which go about their business inured to the hysteria their annual routine provokes…The author is clearly a thoughtful and concerned observer who cares deeply about polar bears and their future, and has provided [an] entertaining—and certainly unique—addition to the canon of polar bear literature.”

Library Journal (website), 4/10/13
“[A] terrifically energetic, dude-friendly adventure…Mixes ecology with travel and is informative and endearingly funny…Charming.”

Library Journal
This terrifically energetic, dude-friendly adventure, originally published in 2005, mixes ecology with travel and is informative and endearingly funny. Unger is a family man (“…not a nutcase with a bear fetish or a shrill environmental warrior”) who likes the woods, eats organic, and feels guilty about getting crappy mileage on his minivan. After earning a master’s in environmental science from Berkeley, he stopped hoping that the Navy SEALS would open “a small division for peacenik forest rangers” and became (naturally) an Oakland fireman (Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman). Though attuned to climate issues and global warming, Unger grew impatient to see its effects and decided to search them out. In autumn 2008, he bundled his wife and three young kids (ages five, four, and two) up to the “plucky trailer park” of Churchill, Manitoba (pop. 943), that is the polar bear tourist capital of the world to “see the great bears before they died, to witness man’s destruction of one of the last great things on earth….” There he joined a polar bear poop-gathering expedition, saw dozens of bears up close, and ruminated on their habitat. His narrative is chock-a-block with fascinating descriptive passages on myriad subjects like the history of Churchill, bear lifting a “repeat offender” northwards, and describing “tundra buggying,” a sort of whale watch in “an unholy union between an RV and a FEMA trailer.” Unger finds that while the bears are indeed jeopardized, the empirical evidence is often murky. Unger’s love of his family is completely charming, as is this book. Photos show Churchill and some of its polars up close and also reveal Unger to be as good looking as Justin Timberlake with a unibrow.
Verdict If you like any two of the following boxes, try it: polar bears; travelogs; humor writing; family adventures.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306821639
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
01/29/2013
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
2 MB

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Dan Rubenstein, Canadian Geographic“Zac Unger's deep dive into the health of polar bear populations around the world cuts through the sound-bite science typically reported by the mainstream media to explore the truth about the status of this species. It's also a very engaging and entertaining book to read—no small feat when tackling such complex subject matter.”

Meet the Author

Zac Unger is a writer as well as a firefighter and paramedic with the Oakland Fire Department. He is the author of Working Fire: The Making of a Fireman and has written for Slate, The Economist, Men's Journal, and other publications.

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Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I appreciated the information provided which was educational I would have preferred more of a personal story.