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Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey Paperback – June 17, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Like Bertozzi's Lewis & Clark (First Second, 2011), this is another graphic novel focusing on the real lives of explorers. Ernest Shackleton is most famous for his plan to cross the Antarctic by foot, which was a miserable failure (their ship Endurance was crushed by the ice, and the crew was stranded for months on end) and yet defied incredible odds (all of the men in the expedition survived). The story is told primarily through dialogue, which helps to personalize this chapter in history, but the informational text and maps will help readers grasp the full impact of the challenges the men faced on this expedition. The book is filled with humanizing touches, like the ways the men kept up morale with practical jokes and playing games together on the ice. Like the famous photographs of Shackleton's expedition, Bertozzi's black-and-white artwork captures both the bleakness and the majesty of the surrounding snow and ice. The cover image is especially gripping, as Shackleton stands on broken slabs of ice while his trapped ship tilts ominously behind him. This book is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy nonfiction, graphic novels, explorers, true adventure, and impossible dreams.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
Earnest Shackleton made several attempts to reach the South Pole in his career as an explorer, but he never managed to see it. Bertozzi’s latest, much in the same spirit of his well-received Lewis & Clark (2011), covers one such expedition, during which Shackleton and his crew spent almost two years in and out of ice packs, drifting in lifeboats, and desperately trying to find a way back to civilization. For all the peril, though, the slightly obsessive (but never foolhardy) Shackleton comes across as an exceptional leader, maintaining a positive, enterprising attitude and never losing his probably life-saving spirit of camaraderie. Bertozzi eschews all narrative explanation, relying solely on dialogue among the crew and the detailed black-and-white panels to tell the story. The snow- and ice-bound journey is the perfect match for Bertozzi’s minimal style—vast stretches of white become gasp-worthy, desolate vistas. The result is stark but effective, and it only serves to underscore the tense drama of the harrowing journey beset by seemingly endless obstacles. Perfect for fans of real-life adventure stories. Grades 8-12. --Sarah Hunter
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Top Customer Reviews
First Second, 2014
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
Recommended for grades 5+
Young fans of graphic novels may be drawn to this book without sufficient background knowledge surrounding Shackleton. This is not to say that readers of course have to start somewhere when embarking on any new knowledge, I'm just not sure this would be the best text to start with on the subject at hand. The pacing of the story and the gaps in explanation could leave some readers, especially young ones, confused.
The artwork and writing was not a standout to me on either account. And perhaps some of my lacking passion around this text has to do with the fact that I live in Maine. We spend a huge part of our year enduring winter and longing for the sweet salvation of springtime. Maybe I just can't enjoy a book set in the Arctic ;)
I confess to being amazed here. Not so much by the art work, though the minimalist b&w suits the story very well, nor so much by the breadth and scope - this is very to the point; there is very little background or biography of any of the principals, including Sir Ernest. No, what amazes me is Bertozzi's ability to humanize the expedition, to turn these historical figures into people, and to do so with the simplest of touches.
Rather than spend a great deal of space and ink on the "heroic" nature of the ordeal, he focuses on the personal and the mundane. Rather than paint in larger than life strokes, he presents us with a series of miniatures that illuminate these men and what their lives on the ice were like. Example: rather than provide a "tour" of the Endurance and provide "specs", Bertozzi uses an escaped sled dog's romp through the under-decks and a cutaway of the ship. We get the same information and sense of scale, but in a novel way that lets us relate to these men AS men. In this case, annoyed men trying to corral a runaway dog. It is touches like this that make this thin graphic work a valuable addition to polar literature.
These touches do not in any way diminish the ordeal that Shackleton and his men went through. On the contrary, it rather ennobles them. They quickly become real to us. Not is a particular, biographical way, but in a personal-in-the-universal way. I am really very impressed with the achievement here.
Certainly, anyone looking for the depth, details and inner workings of the expedition will find this wanting and will be better served by something like Huntford's terrific biography of Shackleton, or one of the many available volumes recounting the plight of the Endurance and its crew. But this is a fine and true portrait that deserves attention not just from graphic fans, but anyone interested in the universal, human story as well.
Told with short scenes where the adage a picture speaks a thousand words is put to full use, Bertozzi covers Shackleton’s failures in trying to reach the south pole in the heart of Antarctica, and his next bold mission to cross the great Antarctic land mass. Readers get scenes of Shackleton putting the team together, a hodge-podge of men who will soon become very close starving on the ice; crossing the ocean and reaching the frozen wasteland; and then their journey upon the Endurance through the ice until they become stalled and must make some monumental decisions.
Bertozzi uses his skill as a storyteller and artist, bringing humor to a seemingly dry historical subject, but also color and life to the various characters, making them real people suffering in these harsh conditions. Shackleton does a great job of telling a complete, emotional story in a short book that will provide useful quick reading for anyone wanting to know more about Sir Ernest Shackleton.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Decent drawings of the Antarctic Circle
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