Love is a wonderful thing.
And if you’re lucky, it lasts for always.
Of course, always is a relative term. When Isaac and Monica — characters in John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS — text each other “Always,” they have no idea how short that time period will be. Young love is fickle like that.
But Gus and Ida, two polar bears at New York’s Central Park Zoo, have a pretty good idea that their always won’t last forever. Ida is sick and one day she will die. They know this because the zookeeper told them so.
That’s the premise of IDA, ALWAYS, a picture book written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso, published this year by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. It’s based on a true story, and the way Levis and Santoso depict the bears is truly lovely. It’s a simple story. The bears spend their days together splashing water, rolling a ball and imaging what life in the city might be like even though they can’t see it.
That doesn’t change once Ida knows she’s sick. She sleeps more, and Gus and Ida talk about where she might go and what that space might be like, but most of the time they do the things they always did. Like in this lovely section:
But at the end of each day, Gus always told Ida. “I’ll miss you.”
And Ida always told Gus, “I’ll miss you, too.”
They would cuddle until the sky grew dark and the lamps of the city clicked on.
They would wave good night a thousand times.
Then wave a few times more.
And then, when Ida’s time comes, Gus does the things he and Ida always did.
And even though he can’t see her, he knows she’s there.
Check out this beautiful book for a love story for the ages.