Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North
by Dan Bar-el
Publication date: October 6, 2020 by Atheneum BYR
Purchased by my school
Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.
And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.
Once again this year I read The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el to my grade two students, and once again they loved it! So as soon as this sequel was released my school purchased it for me, and it did not disappoint! Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a fantastic follow up to Duane’s life in the very, very far north and my students were just as invested in this second visit with familiar friends as they had been with book one.
Duane and all his friends are back again for more adventures, and I loved that the chapters remained like mini stories. The shorter ones we finished in one sitting, the longer ones we broke up over two days (or even three sometimes!). As a teacher, I appreciate the obvious stopping points so that I’m not needing to decide in the middle of a chapter where I can leave off and not have the students upset, or forget what happened the previous day when we pick the book back up again.
My students loved the extra attention that Major Puff and Boo both received. Major Puff has to make some big decisions when it comes time for his migration (which is NOT a vacation), and Boo has a secret that is found out through not-so honest means. Handsome also gets a bit of a fun story near the end that my students were both saddened by, and happy for.Duane of course is front and center again, enjoying adventures, icicles and time with his friends. But this time, there is a new character – one who inserts himself into the friends decisions in a manner that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group. My students were so upset every time he appeared on page! (but in a good, this character is doing his job and we don’t like him because we’re not supposed to, kind of way) We had so many good conversations around this character: what makes a good friend, why he may be behaving the way he is, how Duane and the others can interact with him in a good way, is what this character is doing kind/nice/appropriate/etc. They loved arguing about him, predicting what he’ll do next and if the friends will realize what’s going on.
Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a wonderful book, and I cannot wait to read both stories to next year’s class!