The Great Hibernation


When all of the adults in the tiny town of St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord mysteriously fall asleep, it’s up to 12-year-old Jean and her friends to solve the mystery of what caused their hibernation—and figure out how to wake them back up before it’s too late. Here, Jean has just seen a shadowy figure hide a box with a triangle symbol on it inside a closed-up restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. She sneaks into the restaurant to learn more, and…

When Jean opened the refrigerator door, a light flicked on revealing shelves filled with food. The nearest one held jars of pickled turnips, horseradish, and stewed prunes.

Blech! No wonder no one wanted to eat here anymore.

The next shelf was packed with cardboard boxes, but none had the triangle symbol. The rear shelves held loaves of bread and wedges of sheep-cheese from her own farm. In frustration, she kicked the wall beside the cheese shelf—and felt it rattle against her boot.

A door! Jean gave it a hard shove, and it creaked open.

The temperature plummeted as she stepped into this new, darker room—a walk-in freezer. Another light flicked on overhead, and Jean blinked as her eyes adjusted.

She gasped.

The shelf right in front of her held row after row of triangular fins, the edge of each one rust colored with blood where it had been hacked from a shark’s body. A stew made with shark fins had been a St. Polonian delicacy long ago—people’s grandparents talked about having eaten it in their youth. But slaughtering sharks for their fins had been illegal for decades.

Jean glanced up to a higher shelf that was packed with enormous, plastic-wrapped hunks of a dark red meat. She stretched to read a sticker on one of the packages; a date from only a couple of months ago, and a single word: whale.

You could go to jail for years for hunting or eating a whale. This freezer was hidden for a reason.

Shaking slightly, Jean finally spotted the cardboard box with the triangle shoved in under the lowest shelf. She took a deep breath of icy freezer air. What fresh horror would she find inside? Endangered falcon corpses. The head of a baby narwhal?

She crouched low and fumbled at the box with her mittens. Inside: two jumbo-size plastic baggies—one nearly empty, and the other packed full of a grayish-brown substance. Jean pulled a hand out of its mitten and, cringing slightly, gave the full bag a poke. The substance gave way easily to her finger’s pressure. It hadn’t had time to start freezing yet.

It looked familiar. Where had she seen it before?

(Illustration by Rebecca Green.)


The Great Hibernation By Tara Dairman Published by Random House Children’s Books

ISBN-13: 9781524717858

Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

What would happen if every grown-up in town fell asleep and the kids were left in charge? A great pick for fans of A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff and Greenglass House by Kate Milford or any reader seeking a quirky mystery with a big helping of silliness.

The most important tradition in tiny St. Polonius is the annual Tasting of the Sacred Bear Liver. Each citizen over twelve must eat one bite of liver to prevent the recurrence of the Great Hibernation, when the town founders fell asleep for months.

This year is Jean Huddy’s first time to taste the liver. It doesn’t go well.

A few hours later, all the adults fall into a sleep from which they cannot be woken, and the kids are left to run things. At first, they have a blast. But then the town bullies take over the mayor’s office and the police force, and pretty soon Jean begins to suspect that this “hibernation” was actually engineered by someone in town.

Courage, teamwork, and scientific smarts unlock an unusual mystery in this delightful and funny story about one girl who inspires the kids around her to join together to save their home.

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Tara Dairman was twelve, she would have gone straight to the library to read about far-flung places. Now that she’s an adult herself, Tara travels far and wide and has visited more than ninety countries. She has a BA in creative writing from Dartmouth College and is the author of the All Four Stars series of foodie adventures for young readers.