Ida, Always

Ida, Always 51Aufwhsr8L__SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Ida, Always

Caron Levis, Author

Charles Santoso, Illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Feb. 23, 2016

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Polar Bears, Best Friends, Illness, Grief, Loss, Hope

Opening: “Gus Lived in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city. Buildings grew around him and shifted the shape of the sky. Zookeepers poked in and out. Visitors came and went.”

Synopsis: Gus is a polar bear. He lives in a big park in the center of a city. Every day when he crawls out of his cave, his best friend Ida is always there to greet him. They play ball, splash in the water, chase each other, climb onto their favorite rock to gaze at the city and listen to the many noises around them. One morning Ida doesn’t come out of her cave. The zookeeper tells Gus that Ida is very sick and will die. Gus and Ida still have some time together to deal with the news. They stomp and howl, sniffle and cuddle, joke and giggle and wonder where Ida will go. Once Ida passes, Gus realizes that he will always carry their memories  together in his heart.

Why I like this book:

Caron Levis has written a tender, sensitive and hopeful book for children about illness, love and loss of a companion. The author’s gentle narrative and heartfelt honesty shows children the endearing friendship between the two polar bears, their reaction to Ida’s illness, the happy and sad moments they spend in their last days together, their curiosity about what will happen when Ida dies, and Gus’s adjustment to life without his best friend.

The text is lyrical and at times poetic as Levis depicts poignant moments between Gus and Ida. When Gus realizes that Ida is going to die, the simple text, “Don’t go, don’t go…DON”T!” is enlarged and emphasizes his pain and grief. I like the use of sounds in choice words.

For a child, the story of Gus and Ida easily opens a discussion about loss in their lives. Loss is a very important event for a child and they rarely have the opportunity to explore it honestly with adults.  This book can help children talk about the loss of a pet, a friend or a family member and translate that into their lives. This book belongs on every book shelf.

Charles Santoso’s illustrations are rich, warm and expressive. They beautifully capture the relationship between Gus and Ida and showcase the city skyline and the lush green zoo. The cover will melt your heart.

Resources:  There is an Author’s Note at the end. The story of Gus and Ida is inspired by the real-life polar bears, Ida and Gus, who lived together in the New York City’s Central Park Zoo. This book is an excellent resource for parents to talk about loss with their children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

40 thoughts on “Ida, Always

  1. This sounds like a bitter sweet book. It probably would have upset me as a child. (I couldn’t read Bambi because of what happened to his mother. To this day I dislike hunters and won’t eat meat) I also think a book like this will prepare children for loss, as it is inevitable, and it seems like the subject is handled well. So many good books for children and you seem to find the best.


    • Yes, there may be sensitive children that would have a difficult time with this story. But, usually a child’s first loss is a pet and it would be a great opportunity to begin to prepare children for a loss. I remember being carted off to funerals as a very young child of elderly great aunts and uncles I didn’t know — when they used to have wakes. I had all kinds of peculiar and rather humorous ideas about where they went. Wish I had been prepared.


    • You may. But, it really is such a beautiful love story and the author’s language is so poetic at times. In my first draft I included some of my favorite lines, but then decided to keep the post short.


  2. Patricia, this sounds like an amazingly powerful book! I’m so glad to shares the happy and sad days when saying goodbye to someone you love. So poignant and so true. Thanks for sharing a tremendous resource for kids and parents.


    • I feel the same way. I’ve done some grief work with people, and I always find myself looking for the moments of grace that they can hold on to. Grief books are some of the most researched books on my website. That’s why I like to share them.


  3. I love the cover too, and though I don’t usually like sad children’s books, I agree that it is an important subject to be able to talk openly about – and a book like this can help. I’ve seen many requests on online writerly groups for examples of good picture books dealing with loss of a loved one. This looks good. Thanks 🙂


    • That cover conveys so much about the love story between two bears. I’ve reviewed many grief books over the years and it is one of the most popular searches. Best to prepare a child gradually and to have favorite books in your collection.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re right, Pat! Heart melted. I’d be a blubbering fool reading this, I’m afraid. I know it has a purpose and looks utterly charming.


    • Yes, it melted my heart! I am going to order a copy for all my great grandchildren. It also holds meaning in our family, because our grandson was the engineer in charge of overseeing the construction of the gorgeous habitat for polar bears at the Columbus Zoo.


  5. There was a lump in my throat just reading the synopsis. My what a special and moving book. And that cover grabs the heart strings.


    • It does melt your heart! I hope you read the story as I know you would appreciate how the author handled the subject. There were so many beautiful poetic lines. It felt like a beautiful friendship/love story.


    • You know, I didn’t even notice the reflection of the bears in the cloud clover. (And, I’m always looking at cloud pictures.) I was thinking of the idea of heaven in all the beautiful blue skies he painted. You would love the illustrations!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s