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Shackleton’s survival epic in Antarctica is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. For a long time, I’ve told the story to my girls in my own words as all the books or movies on the Endurance expedition were meant for adults. I am thrilled that the story is now available for young readers with Shackleton’s Journey by British artist William Grill.
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This book review of [easyazon_link identifier=”1909263109″ locale=”US” tag=”frmo0a-20″]Shackleton’s Journey[/easyazon_link] will give you some hints as to what you can find inside the book as well as examples of the amazing illustrations. I offered the book to my 9-year old for Christmas and both she and my 11-year old are fascinated by the details of this incredible adventure. Definitely a great read for young fans of Jack London, great explorers or Antarctica.
From the start, the author knows what intrigues children – details and facts. What does an expedition pack for a year-long adventure in Antarctica? My girls, who love I-spy books, spent at least 10 minutes analyzing the double page on Equipment and Supplies to ID all the items that went on the ship. They even had a chuckle when they spotted a bicycle! It seemed so out of place, yet why not a bicycle?
They also spent a lot of time on the page that shows all crew members, as they wanted to identify with one of the crew members before “embarking on the expedition.” It was finally decided that my 9-year old would be Charles Green the ship’s cook and my 11-year old would be Leonard Hussey the expedition meteorologist.
Page by page, the book described all the hurdles that had to be overcome to plan the expedition. Then once on the water, the Endurance set sail and from a whaling station of South Georgia, left for the South Sandwich islands. That’s where things got a little tricky. The Weddell Sea page does a beautiful job at showing the size of the ship entering miles and miles of a floating ice puzzle.
From that point on, the Endurance expedition becomes a true epic. After 700 miles of pack ice, the Endurance ship was stuck and became a winter base for Shackleton and his crew. Winter camp! My girls particularly enjoyed the dog igloos built on the ice, though the dogs suffered a somber fate later along the story. They also liked reading about dogsledding races and the Midwinter Day celebration. Slowly, the winter months went by in complete darkness until the ship was pushed out of the water by intense pressure and crushed by the ice. What a moment it must have been. The illustrations show each step of the ship’s final days in snippets, using words written by the crew in their journal to describe the ordeal.
I won’t describe the rest of the adventure but I’ll just say that this was only the beginning of Shackleton’s Journey. There were many many more adventures. My girls, fascinated by geography, really enjoyed the map that shows the timeline of the Endurance expedition and kept referring to it to know where we were at. Without the map, you have no idea of what’s going on and even so, children have a hard time fathoming distances. My 9-year old looked at the distance between Elephant Island and South Georgia and said, “But it’s so close!”
Interestingly, my girls were more taken by the adventure aspect of the expedition (camping in the wild, turning safety boats into shelters, cooking on stoves set up on icebergs) than by the survival aspect. Of course, they were concerned about the shortage of food but it didn’t occur to them that these stranded men could become dangerously bored and weak. It’s maybe because most of the book’s art is blue and white, reflecting the hope that kept the crew alive more than anything else. As you see, Shackleton’s Journey is a great book and I wouldn’t let any parent think that because it’s an illustrated book, it’s for young kids. Given the amount of solid info on ship building, wilderness survival feats, historical dates and complicated challenges, this book is clearly meant for older readers and it might even spark an interest in polar exploration.
Whoever likes Jack London, the world’s greatest explorers and the extreme cold environment of Antarctica is bound to love this epic tale of survival and hope against all odds. Well done to William Grill!
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