Kali's Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue

Publishers Weekly - February 2014

"After the death of its mother, a polar bear cub won’t be able to survive in the wild. He’s rescued by residents of the Inupiat village of Kali (who name him after their village) and sent to the Alaska Zoo, where employees teach Kali to eat solid foods, and where he learns to swim. Gomes’s scattered photographs create both an albumlike effect and a sort of visual narrative as Kali plays, explores, and naps. Though Kali’s permanent home ends up being at the Buffalo Zoo, rather than in the wild, readers should enjoy seeing a grown-up Kali find a companion in another polar bear named Luna. Supplemental material provides facts about polar bears’ habitats, characteristics, and life cycles. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)"

The Buffalo News - February 2014

"But he steps out as a star in his own right in the just-published children's picture book, "Kali's Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue."

Alaska Dispatch - February 2014

"Orphaned Alaska polar bear cub star of new children's book: Kali, a 14-month old polar bear cub from Point Lay, on Alaska's Arctic coast, is the subject of a new children's book, "Kali's Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue." Kali spent three months at the Alaska Zoo in early 2013 after his mother was killed by a hunter before being sent to the Buffalo Zoo. The book, written by Jennifer Keats Curtis, doesn’t detail the cub's difficult start in life -- instead it focuses on the plight of polar bears in general and how the Kali came to live in Western New York. The story details how zookeepers, on the plane ride from Anchorage to Buffalo, gave Kali a blanket from the zoo's other cub, Luna, so that he could begin to get used to her smell. The two cubs now share an enclosure at the Buffalo Zoo. The photographs for the book were taken by longtime Alaska Zoo volunteer John Gomes."

WKBW - March 2014

"Kali the Alaskan Polar Bear was orphaned by his mother after she was killed by hunters. After learning that she was still nursing, the hunters went looking for Kali and rescued him."

Library Media Connection

This is a simple story about the rescue of Kali, a three-month-old polar bear cub. Through an abundance of photographs, readers get to see how Kali adjusts to her temporary rescue home; learning, playing, and even napping. She eventually leaves her temporary home to settle in at the Buffalo Zoo with another polar bear, Luna, who also needed a friend. The captivating photographs fill the pages. It is through additional information at the back of the book that readers learn general facts about polar bears. The book includes Creative Minds: Adapted for Life in the Arctic, Polar Bear Math, and a Polar Bear Life Cycle. Eileen Wright, Reference Librarian, Montana State University Billings Library, Billings, Montana [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format and paperback.] RECOMMENDED

Horn Book Guide

After discovery, Kali is transported to a wildlife vet and then to the Alaska Zoo where he learns to eat solid food, play with keepers and toys, and swim. Kali ultimately moves to a permanent home at the Buffalo Zoo and meets a female cub. The design is amateur, but the plentiful, close-up action photos are appealing. Additional information and activities are appended.

NSTA Recommends - May 2014

Young children are bound to 'relate' to Kali through the photographs of the little bear drinking from a bottle, sucking his paw for comfort, and sleeping with a blanket. The remarkable antics will stimulate children's minds and prepare them to learn about the amazing adaptations of the polar bear for living in the Arctic. Young students and their teachers alike are bound to be excited to learn about their environment of dark winters and light summers, how their bodies have adapted specialized structures to function in the cold, swimming for long distances, and walking without slipping on ice.
- Reviewed by Debbie Chessin

Science Books and Films - Novemember 2014

Very young readers or those just listening will find Kali's story, 25 pages of pictures and commentary, a captivating journey to be enjoyed over and over again. Color photographs go hand-in-glove with the clearly written prose, making early readers feel part of Kali's rescue. Kali is taken from an icy den by a man who says "your momma has just died,” and takes the frightened cub to the local village, by snowmobile. The villagers name the cub Kali after their village. Unable to get him (yes, someone has determined the cub is male) to eat, he is flown to a local wildlife vet who finds the cub fit to be flown on to the Alaska Zoo. Here Kali, very hungry, takes puppy formula and whip cream from a baby bottle. Although Kali's stay at the Alaska Zoo will be temporary as the zoo already has a pair of polar bears, for the next three months, the rapidly growing, playful cub romps in the snow with his keepers, learns to eat solid food and to swim. He play hunts with balls and kids' toys, climbs in and out of boxes and baskets, till he tires himself and naps. The Buffalo Zoo in New York needs a companion for a young female polar bear. So, Kali bids farewell to Alaska, takes another plane ride to his new home where he joins Luna, his new friend. At the Buffalo Zoo "Kali and Luna will live happy and healthy lives.” The last four pages of the book are entitled "For Creative Minds,” and purports to give information on adaptation for life in the Arctic, and polar bear life cycle. The author, editors, and publishers should be aware that polar bears are the symbols of climate change, directly dependent on Arctic sea ice which is rapidly disappearing. Nothing of this is mentioned in this section, which is disappointing.
- Frank M. Truesdale, emeritus, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

Midwest Book Review - February 2014

..."Kali's Story" is written in simple narrative style to interest readers ages 4-8, in grades K-3. Many related teaching /learning activities relating to life in the Arctic, the polar bear life cycle, and even polar bear math and more can be presented to interested students. To complement these activities, a 15-30 page teaching activities guide is available on As well, additional background material and related facts are presented in the book's For Creative Minds section at the end of "Kali's Story." From the dangerous beginning to the ultimate zoo placement of the growing Kali at the Buffalo Zoo in New York, "Kali's Story" is exciting nature study for students of global warming and the environment.

San Francisco Book Review/Kids Book Review - May 2014

Kali is an orphaned polar bear. (Orphaned means without a mommy and daddy.) Kali is in the Arctic, in a cave made of snow. People try to give him milk. He doesn’t know how to drink out of a bowl. Then he goes on an airplane ride to the Alaska Zoo. (It’s snowy and cold in Alaska. It’s a good place for a polar bear.) They give him puppy formula and whipping cream. Yuck! When he gets bigger, he eats “bear nuggets.” He naps. He attacks toys. (“I’m hunting a ball.” “I’m hunting a dinosaur.” “I kill you dinosaur!” “I’m going to eat you, teddy bear.”) Then he needs to go to another zoo to get more bears to play with. He makes friends with a girl polar bear, Luna. (I wish I got to see him swimming.) There are lots of facts in the back of the book. (An adult’s armpit is as tall as a polar bear’s butt.) The pictures are real, so I think it’s a real story. I can read this book myself. My favorite picture is Kali attacking the teddy bear. I love this book. Everybody in the whole galaxy would like this book.
- Reviewed by Nishaant, Age 5

Ithaca Child - October 2014

John Gomes' photos capture Kali practicing his hunting skills on stuffed dinosaurs and teddy bears, climbing into boxes, and just being a young bear. But young bears, like children need friend, so Kali moved to the Buffalo Zoo in New York, where he meets a young polar bear named Luna. Kali will stay at the Buffalo Zoo at least through the spring of 2015, so if you travel that way drop in to say "hello".

Feathered Quill Book Review - March 2014

This is the amazing true story of Kali, the orphaned polar bear, everyone will fall in love with. One of the real draws of this book are the outstanding photographs of Kali from the time he peeked out of that den until he ended up at the Buffalo Zoo with Luna. A large portion of the book looks as if it were an actual photograph album, something that will make it accessible to all, including emergent or non-readers. The tale brings Kali’s story to life, animating him and making him into the loveable bear that has excited so many people. In the back of the book is an interesting look at the “Polar Bear Life Cycle” and several activities, including some that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Reader's Haven Reviews - March 2014

Kali's Story is an absolutely delightful, sweet story of the rescue of a three-month-old polar bear cub whose mother had died. From the very onset of the kind man rescuing Kali to his adoption by the Buffalo Zoo, the pictures and text take the young reader through rescue, care, play, and needs that his rescuers and "foster home" provide.

The reader learns that the cub can't drink from a bowl, but needs a bottle. That he needs play time and his care givers provide romps in the snow. That he needs to learn the survival skill of swimming. The photography captures moments endearing and informative.

Home School Book Review Blog - March 2014

Reading or hearing stories about animals, especially true stories like this one told by author Jennifer Keats Curtis, is fascinating for youngsters, and the full-color photographs by John Gomes make it all that more real. Children will delight to see pictures of Kali as he drinks from a big bottle, plays with balls, and sleeps with his stuffed toy. The educational value ofKali’s Story is enhanced by the four “For Creative Minds” pages in the back of the book with additional information on polar bears and how they are adapted for life in the Arctic, and a teaching activities guide is available at the publisher’s website. Did you know that the polar bear is the largest land carnivore on earth?

Maryland School Librarian - March 2014

“Kali’s Story” is an eye catching photographic journey of the life of a 3 month old rescued polar bear.  The photographs follow him from the icy den to the rescuers’ village then to the Alaska zoo until he is brought to his final home at the Buffalo Zoo in New York.  With precise language, Jennifer Keats Curtis tells Kali’s story that primary students will easily follow and comprehend.  Arbordale Publishing includes online resources that teachers can use to align with the Common Core Curriculum.
- Tamara Reed, Library Media Specialist, Emmistburg Elementary School

Bookloons - April 2014

Kali's journey is told in text and beautiful photographs. At the end of the story, polar bear facts are offered in an interesting way with additional photos and a map of their habitat.

Tif Talks Books - April 2014

This true story shares Kali's journey through up close and personal photographs, making readers easily fall in love with the young bear. Kali's Story:  An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue wins both my daughter's favorite book as well as my own!

Night Owl Reviews - May 2014

Filled with color photos of Kali’s journey from his icy den in the frigid wilderness of Alaska to Buffalo, this book will charm children who will find it all but impossible to resist this cuddly, white cub. You’ll see the little bear learning to feed using a bottle, playing with his favorite toys and adjusting to his new friend, Luna.

Learning Table Book Reviews - June 2014

Kali's Story is a fun picture book to read aloud, and it is written simply, with easy vocabulary, so that young readers can read it independently as well. But, the cool thing about this book is how you can extend it beyond the page and turn it into a cross-curricular unit study. 

RIF Book People Unite - December 2015

let’s read about polar bears! Here are some of our favorites: Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis, John Gomes (photographer) – Follow the true story of polar bear cub Kali, from his rescue in an Inupiat village to his new home at the Buffalo Zoo.

A Year of Reading - March 2015

The last nonfiction book I picked up recently was Kali's Story by Jennifer Keats Curtis. It is a simple story with very accessible text. I am glad to add as many shorter, easier texts as I can because I believe volume matters and kids are more willing to read a book that seems doable for them, when nonfiction is new.  Kali's Story is the story of a baby polar bear who was rescued after his mother died. It is a story my kids will love and one that might lead them to other books with similar rescue stories.  The photos are adorable and they will draw kids in immediately.