Perfect Picture Book Friday – Into the Ice

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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!

Into the Ice  –  The Story of Arctic Exploration

by Lynn Curlee

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1998

Ages: 7-11

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.

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38 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Into the Ice

  1. I am such a visual person that the look of this book would grab me right away. It is so beautifully illustrated. Brrrrrrr….. an adventure anywhere would be fun. Here we know well of the Antartic explorers , Scott, Oates, Wilson, Shackleton and Wilson. In fact the streets nearby us here are named after the South Pole explorers. My husband and I nearly booked a trip on the last Eribus flight years ago to the South Pole… that would have been an experience to land there, just as the North Pole would be. Thankyou so much for sharing this beautiful book Joanna.

    • Joanna says:

      Diane, I love the purple and blue hues on the front cover How fun that your streets are named after explorers. I think in all your travels, you should try and make it to one of the Poles at least once!

  2. This book sounds great! I love that it’s a good choice for older readers – no one should have to outgrow picture books 🙂 – and it seems filled with so much interesting history and adventure! I love those kind of books, so I will definitely have to search out this one! Thanks so much for adding it to our list! 🙂

  3. What a great topic. I always wonder what some of these early explorers were thinking when I read about these dangerous expeditions. And, that’s the word I thought you might use for yourself — explorer. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this one.

    • Joanna says:

      Some folk just seem to be born with a will for dangerous exploits. I confess that while I love exploring, and adventure, excess danger is not my thing! I would never try bungy jumping, for example!

  4. The gorgeous cover alone captivated my attention, I love reading adventures into the unknown terrotories, which this was for the explorers. The illustrations sound beautiful. Such a nice selection for older kids. Great pick!

    • Joanna says:

      The front cover and the illustrations are mystical and evocative, Pat. It is a book for adventurous older elementary kids.

  5. I would probably really enjoy this book. I’ve done a bit of research about explorers at the North Pole and would like to know more for a possible MG novel. Are you sure it’s “historical FICTION”? It sounds more like NON-FICTION. Thanks for sharing!

    • Joanna says:

      Christie, I had read somewhere that it was historical fiction, but you are right, on further investigation, I think it is best classified as nonfiction, and I am going to change this. Thank you for querying it.

  6. Adventure is cool and adventure stories are especially great for boys who need more stories any how. Wonderful choice. Adding it to my list. 🙂

  7. clarbojahn says:

    I Love non-fiction books for children, I learn so much. I pick them up for me to read not any other reason. I just love picture books. They teach, entertain, and make you laugh all at once. Picture book authors are great authors. And this book is no exception. A great choice, Joanna. Thanks. 🙂

  8. Joanna says:

    I still love pictures in my books, Clar! I agree, I really do read picture books for pleasure not because I must or have kids!

  9. I had no idea that Arctic exploration began as early as 330 BC! Wow. The gorier details would have made me shudder as a kid, but the rest sounds fascinating. Thanks, Joanna!

  10. Oh, how I love nonfiction. We haven’t read a book about the Arctic yet. I am finding this one immediately. Thanks for the recommendation and the activities.

    • Joanna says:

      Kristen, when they think of the poles kids usually think of all the lovely animals. It is fun to take their knowledge further an discuss their exploration etc.

  11. Loni Edwards says:

    Oh wow! What a gorgeous cover! I love non-fiction books for kids. This sounds like a really great one. In our Archaeology class last year, we learned of Captain Sir John Franklin’s ill fated trip through the arctic. It was a fascinating story. To think that all of those men went crazy because of contaminated canned food! Thanks for introducing me to this book. I will be searching for this one!

    • Joanna says:

      Loni, there are some pretty hairy and tragic stories tied into this history! Love that your archeology class looked at some of these stories.

  12. Very interesting. And I love your idea to make a mock North Pole in papier mâché and plot the different expeditions. What a learning experience for children.

  13. I love books like this! I really like learning about history and actual facts in a fun way is awesome! There should be more books like this!

  14. Tracy Bermeo says:

    I think that the history of the poles is amazing and mostly because of just what you said, they are untamed. I think reading about it would beat freezing in it. 🙂 Great choice.
    A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

  15. Amy Dixon says:

    This book looks perfect for my son, he just loves non-fiction picture books. I am not usually drawn to them, so I have a harder time picking them out for him. But I am certain he will love this one, so thanks, Joanna!

  16. Sounds beautiful and mesmerizing. Great choice!

  17. I like the sound of this book! Seems really lovely, and the way that you have shared about it without revealing too much also excites me to find the book and discover it for myself. An adventure awaits indeed each time we open the pages of a book. I shall be on the lookout for this one when I visit the library tomorrow.

    • Joanna says:

      Becoming immersed back in children’s literature these past 12 months has been a tremendous adventure. So true, Myra!

  18. Heather says:

    The human drive to explore is always fascinating and I love the rich history here. Great choice, Joanna!

  19. Leslie Rose says:

    This book looks like a good draw for some of my reluctant 5th grade readers. They feel less pressure when it’s in PB format.

    • Joanna says:

      Leslie, this is one of the reasons I think there is a place for appropriate picture books for upper elementary children.

  20. Joanna…I think I would love this book for me. 🙂 I’m so glad that authors/illustrators don’t forget that older kids still like “picture books” and I would definitely use this with younger kids as well…you can always revise the words as you read…it sounds like the pictures would be awesome!

    • Joanna says:

      Vivian, so true, you don’t have to stick to the text when you are the narrator! Though they can sometimes be embarrassed at still liking picture books at an older age, when given some free time in the library I often saw them pull out favorite picture books.

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