Book of the Week: 'Frozen Planet'

It's big and it's beautiful. It's got polar bears, wolves, whales, seals, foxes, albatrosses, the aurora and ice bergs the size of New York skyscrapers.

This is the world of the planet's two poles. An exploration, "Frozen Planet," starts this Sunday on the Discovery Channel, as the third installment in the BBC Earth series.

Firefly has published a companion book, by "Frozen Planet" executive producer Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz, who produced some of the episodes. 

"No part of planet Earth is more hostile to life than the snow-and ice-covered regions thattlie around its two poles," writes naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough in the foreword. "Yet animals of many kinds -- land-living mammals in the north, birds in the south and sea mammals in both places - have over many thousands of years evolved extraordinary ways of surviving there."

The photography is flat-out stunning.  You come eye-to-eye with any number of creatures. There are satellite images showing the break-up of the Laarsen B. Ice Shelf in 2002.

The narrative is evocative and gripping as well. Every page I looked at told me something I didn't know -- about the lives of herders and how they depend on their reindeer, about how feathers on the feet of ptarmigans act like snowshoes, about how summer at the South Pole rarely gets warmer than minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

And given the riches of the book's 312 glossy pages, the $39.95 price isn't even half bad.

This is a keeper to delve into again and again, with or without the televised series.