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Friday, October 3, 2014

Shackleton, by Nick Bertozzi. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $18.99 ages 12 and up

"Listen, you sad excuse
for a sea lawyer...
...There is a clause in your
contract that states that you are
under my command until we
have returned to civilization!
Mr. Wild, the team will halt
here for a quick rest, and Mr.
Green will ready some milk
for the pullers."

What a terrific way to bring a page from history to a young adult audience! So many of these readers have a fascination with stories told in a graphic format. Nick Bertozzi has done an exemplary job of artfully composing the story of Ernest Shackleton's trek to the South Pole.

The years were 1914 and 1915, and the journey arduous, as you might imagine, when you consider the elements and the earlier failures to reach the pole. They were a brave lot, and it took a terrible toll.
The bleak isolation that they faced together to make history surely inspired others to follow in their footsteps. Their icebreaker, Endurance, was immobilized by ice, and finally crushed when that ice thawed. Their journey by land measured more than 350 miles, and it was only their unbreakable spirit and their faith in one another that kept them going in such terrible conditions. The author infuses his adventure tale with hints of the humor that must have been a godsend to the men who bore their burdens with great humanity and uncommon 'endurance' to a successful end.

The inclusion of maps and dates make the drama personal for those reading about this truly incredible feat. The earlier treks are mentioned, and the entire crew introduced, including each of the dogs and one cat. When the ship succumbs to the crushing ice, the men must make their way to a place from which they can be rescued. The story of how they get there makes for a compelling read, and is sure to raise interest for some readers to find out more than is presented in this terrific graphic novel.

Shackleton proves himself to be a leader of the best kind, keeping the men moving on and full of concern for each other through long, nearly impossible days. The fact that they survived to tell their story is sure to inspire readers. Their determination and grit made leading them a less difficult task.
The visual storytelling is sure to keep its audience totally focused on this piece of history. Once started, I just could not stop reading. As we always hope when introducing readers to a story that may be unfamiliar to them, there is more than enough here to encourage further research if one is so inclined. The author adds a list of book, museum and online resources that will certainly feed the need to know more. The tale told is inspiring from start to finish, and is sure to add to their knowledge of the history of the early twentieth century. It also is reminder of how far we have come in terms of communication and technology when compared to the time being presented.
They are men to be admired, led by a stubborn and capable leader.     

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