Title: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey
Author: Nick Bertozzi
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Age Range: 12 to 18
Lexile Reading Level: GN620L
On Shackleton’s third trip to the Antarctic, he was determined to make it to the South Pole. Unfortunately, the conditions were not ideal and before the crew was even able to set foot on Antarctica, they were forced to turn back. It would take them over two years out on the ice before they were able to get help and make their way back home.
I’d heard about the story of Shackleton when my mother-in-law read a book about him and the crew of the Endurance (I believe it was, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, but I’m not sure). His story amazed me. I could not believe that they were out on the ice, in the elements, for so long and that none of his crew died. Shackleton and his crew’s story is so amazing and I think Bertozzi does a really good job translating that story as a graphic novel. He notes at the beginning of the story that, “While [he] strove for historical accuracy in this book, there are some details of the story that are compressed for dramatic reasons”. But he encourages readers who are interested in more details to look to other sources to fill in the gaps. As a reader, I wondered what exactly he meant by having details of the story compressed. After reading the book, I think he means that events seem to happen more quickly in the graphic novel than they actually did in real life. Because of this, I would have appreciated a timeline included somewhere in the book so that I could see where the events were located in the context of other events.
The overall tone of the book is kept fairly light despite the grim events (see page below).
In this scene, they had to operate on one of the crew member’s frostbitten toes. Note how the crew still treats this situation somewhat lightheartedly and even the crew member says afterwards, “They couldn’t kill me, lads!”.
This book would work great in an activity or book club about explorers. There could be different stations set up for each explorer with an activity or two that fit. Other books about other explorers:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (nonfiction)
Freedom Beyond the Sea by Waldtraut Lewin (fiction)
First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race by Tim Grove (nonfiction)