I can’t resist a good adventure, so today I have left the dusty savannah of Africa to take you to the northern, icy wastes of the Artctic. Put on your thermals and join me!
by Lynn Curlee
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1998
Themes/Genre: North Pole, Arctic, exploration, adventure. Nonfiction.
Opening/Synopsis: “It is dawn at the North Pole…Summer is brief and bright, winter long and dar – a frozen night lasting half a year……. The Polar ice cap is one of the bleakest and most treacherous environments on earth.”
This is a text heavy but magically illustrated book seeks to trace the unveiling mystery of this froze, wild part of our planet that man has travelled but has never tamed. This is a riveting historical journey, which begins with the Inuit, who have been living amongst the caribou, musk, walrus etc for millennia. The earliest recorded Arctic explorer was Pytheus of Greece in 330 BC. Next come Irish monks in hide boats and the Norse until we hit the golden era of the 16th century. The Northeast and Northwest passages were traced through pain and loss. The legends of the great Nansen, Franklin, Peary and Cook are all explored, and gory details of cannibalism and digits freezing off are not overlooked. The barrenness, bleakness, beauty, danger, silence, alienation of this land is evoked through these adventurers stories’ and the polar illustrations.
Why I like this book: If I had to choose an adjective to sum myself up, I would probably say adventurous, thus I LOVE stories of men and women willing to pit themselves against the elements and all odds to go into the unknown. It is a well researched book and facts are not sensationalized and yet what these men attempted, some overcoming, some not, is exceptional. The acrylic illustrations, or one could more accurately say paintings evoke in blues and grays and purples, the haunting beauty of the polar region with its unique flora and fauna. I was entertained, inspired and educated by these epic journeys.
Activities/Resources: The back of the book contains a timeline, bibliography and list for further reading. One activity I would suggest would be to make a mock North Pole in papier mâché and plot the different expeditions.
An Interactive Cyberhunt to the North Pole for grades 3-5.
This is part of our ongoing Perfect Picture Book Fridays where we are creating a pool of suggested books and resources for parents and educators. To find out more do visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.