Monday, December 8, 2014
24 men. 2 lifeboats. 1 desperate chance to survive -- all in a wonderful non-fiction graphic novel
Bertozzi, Nick (2014) Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey. New York: First Second.
It was said that if you wanted speed in an Antarctic Expedition in the early 1900s, Roald Amundson was your man. If you wanted an expedition to bring back valuable scientific data, go with Robert Falcon Scott. But if you wanted to get every member of your party home in one piece, you'd have to pick Ernest Shackleton.
If you have never before heard the story of Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16, you are in for a treat. Bertozzi masterfully tells the story of how their ship, The Endurance, was trapped in the ice and finally crushed; how they dragged two lifeboats and all their gear across the open ice, striving to reach that Antarctic land mass, only to find that the ice was moving them away from the land faster than they could push the boats toward it; how they eventually crossed the ocean under constant storm conditions and subzero temperatures; how they landed on tiny, barren Elephant Island, and how Shackleton and four other men crossed to sea again to South Georgia Island, and finally how they had to climb over a mountain range and glacier to reach the whaling station that meant civilization and rescue. It is an amazing story.
Bertozzi uses well-chosen images, carefully planned panel transitions, beautiful cut-aways of ships and lifeboats, and remarkable amounts of emotion conveyed though simple line drawings of face to get across to the reader all of the anguish, desperation, despair, and ultimately triumph of the expedition. he also shows remarkable attention of historical detail yet makes sure that the reader is swept up in the drama of the story. If you teach history or English, you really ought to buy this book. If you have a graphic-novel loving kid in 5th grade or up (perhaps a remarkable fourth grader could get into it as well), pick this one up for Christmas. The art is beautiful and the storytelling is magnificent. Nothing objectionable (though there are some references to earlier expeditions having to eat their dogs -- which could be disturbing to a dog-loving kid..
Here is another taste of the art: You can't read the words, but it should give you an idea of the flavor of it anyway.