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KidsPost Summer Book Club: ‘Never Say Die,’ by Will Hobbs

(Anne Farrar/The Washington Post)

Never Say Die

by Will Hobbs.
Ages 8 to 12.

Have you ever heard of a grolar bear? The grizzly-polar bear mix isn’t make-believe. It’s a rare and dangerous wild animal. It’s also a character in “Never Say Die,” a story set in the Canadian Arctic.

Nick Thrasher, the book’s 15-year-old narrator, lives in the north of Canada, and he hunts to help feed his Inuit family. (The Inuit are the native people of the North American Arctic region.)

While hunting by himself for caribou, Nick encounters a huge bear.

“It was a bear like no other, some kind of monstrosity,” Nick explains.

It has a mostly white body with a brown head and legs. And it isn’t satisfied to take the caribou Nick had shot; the bear wants the teenager, too.

Nick narrowly escapes, and the fierce creature becomes the subject of much talk around town.

When Nick’s older half-brother, wildlife photographer Ryan, enters the story, the grolar bear fades into the background.

Ryan is planning a month-long rafting trip deep into the Yukon Territory, and he invites Nick — whom he has never met — to come along.

Ryan aims to take pictures of large caribou herds, which seem to be shrinking in recent years. He wants to raise awareness about the caribou by getting his photos published in a popular magazine.

Nick thinks Ryan disapproves of hunting, and the teen isn’t sure they will make good traveling companions. But Nick is fascinated by the journey into the wilderness, and he agrees to go.

The two quickly find themselves having more of an ad­ven­ture than they planned. They are thrown from the raft and must deal with a cold river, hunger, grizzlies and wolves.

Although the animals in this book don’t talk, you learn about their personalities from Nick.

A grizzly mom stands up to a bully of a male bear while trying to feed her two cubs. Eventually she is forced to give up a meal of caribou.

A lone wolf that Nick meets isn’t the scary character out of “Little Red Riding Hood” but a curious and intelligent observer of a human who has wandered into his world.

As Nick and Ryan try to return to their quest to find caribou, the grolar bear creeps back into the story. The pair must weigh the thrill of observing wildlife that few people have seen with the possibility that they may not make it home alive.

Christina Barron

Next week

Pegasus: The Flame of Olympus

by Kate O’Hearn. Ages 8 to 12.

A huge thunderstorm knocks out the lights in New York City, and Emily hears a crash on the roof of her apartment building. What she finds up there is a creature she has seen only in books: Pegasus, the winged horse. But Pegasus is wounded and needs help. As Emily and friend Joel try to save the horse, they are drawn into a world of gods and goddesses, thieves and monsters.

Do you have a favorite book that features animals? Send us the title, the author and a sentence or two about why you like the book, and we may feature it in our next book club story. Fill out a form at or send ideas to KidsPost, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your name, age, home town and a parent’s name, phone number and permission to print your submission.

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