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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon



The White Darkness

Geraldine McCaughrean

Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-272618-6
Price: £5.99

‘I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now,’ begins 14-year-old Symone, ‘which is ridiculous, since he’s been dead for ninety years.’ Oates being the sole military man on Captain Scott’s legendary last expedition to the South Pole, where in 1911 they died alongside their colleagues Bowers, Birdie and Evans.

A bit of a misfit, Sym is taken by her eccentric Uncle Victor on a ‘holiday’ to Antarctica, and only once they’re there does she realise that the holiday was a pretext for something entirely different. This she has to discover for herself, though with some help from her imaginary friend. And there are plenty of dangers along the way.

The story unfolds in a most imaginative way, with little clue as to what is going to happen next. Author Geraldine McCaughrean has won several prizes for her work in children’s fiction, including the Whitbread Children’s Book Award three times. I would certainly be happy for my child to read this book and to learn about the most important event in the history of Polar exploration. Review by S. G. Servian


Douggie: The Playful Pup Who Became a Sled Dog Hero
by Pam Flowers, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle
Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN: 978-0-88240-654-1 hardback or 978-0-88240-655-8 paperback
Price: US$15.95/$8.95
Ages: 4 and up

Readers of Pam Flower’s earlier book, Alone Across the Arctic, have already met Douggie, as he was her lead dog and loyal friend of that epic journey. Here we learn how Pam recognised his special qualities from just a few days after his birth. This book tells of his nurturing and training, culminating with a frightening encounter with a polar bear. All children will love this true story, and the illustrations are sheer delight. Review by S.G. Servian


Itchy Little Musk Ox
by Tricia Brown, illustrated by Debbie Dubac
Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN: 978-0-88240-613-2 HB or 978-0-88240-614-5 PB
Price: US$15.95/$8.95
Ages: 3 and up

Anyone who’s ever seen a musk ox close up will never forget it. They look like prehistoric creatures, and covered in snow they are even more fearsome, with their breath visibly rising from their nostrils. But look at this book and you can’t help but fall in love with them. The text is beautifully presented and supported by delightful illustrations on each page. The book includes some facts about musk ox and ‘qiviut’, the fine wool they produce, and a free study guide is available from the publisher’s website. Review by S.G. Servian

Recess at 20 Below
Photographs and text by Cindy Lou Aillaud
Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN: 978-0-88240-604-6 HB or 978-0-88240-609-1 PB
Price: US$15.95/$8.95
Ages: 4 and up

Recess is what British schoolchildren call ‘break’. Cultural differences are fascinating. So what do children do at break when the temperature is so low that your breath freezes on your eyelashes? This book reveals all – the sounds, the clothes, the games, why they can’t throw snowballs. And what happens if your tongue accidentally touches the metal chain of the swing you’re sitting on! Free study guide available from the publisher’s website. Awards: 2006 CBC/Notable Social Studies Trade Books, Battle of the Books Selection, 2006 IRA Children's Notable Books. Review by S.G. Servian

ICE MAN - The Antarctic Adventures of Tom Crean
by Michael Smith
The Collins Press
ISBN: 1-903464-44-7
Paperback, €7.99

At the bottom of the world stands a dark mountain towering above the snow and ice of Antarctica. It is Mount Crean, a permanent memorial to Irishman Tom Crean. His adventures in that hostile region are among the greatest tales of hardship and survival. Antarctica is not for ordinary people and Tom was no ordinary man. His exploits began at 15, when he ran away from home and lied about his age to join the British navy. His next step into the unknown took him to the frozen wilderness.

Going to the Antarctic 100 years ago was like going to Jupiter or Mars today. Explorers were cut off from civilization for two to three years, without radio or telephone contact, and thousands of miles from the nearest outpost. Temperatures plunged way below zero, winds roared up to 200 m.p.h. But Tom overcame all the odds to travel on no less than three Polar expeditions, sailing tempestuous seas and crossing dangerous ice fields to explore completely unknown territory. Review by S.G. Servian


THE BOSS - The Remarkable Adventures of Ernest Shackleton, Heroic Antarctic Explorer
by Michael Smith
The Collins Press
ISBN: 1-903464-57-9
Paperback, €7.99

Aged 16, Irishman Ernest Shackleton left school to join the merchant navy and went on to become a legendary explorer. His extraordinary adventures of endurance and survival in the Antarctic have thrilled generations and are still inspiring today. A great leader of ment, he was called him 'The Boss' and was involved in four incredible expeditions to Antarctica spread over 20 years, between 1901 and 1922. Shackleton's adventures included a breathtaking march to within a few miles of the South Pole. Also captured is the amazing saga of hardship and survival, in the face of extreme odds, on the famous Endurance expedition. Review by S.G. Servian


The Life Cycle of a Penguin
by Lisa Trumauer
Capstone Press - Pebble
ISBN: 0 7368 2090 6
Price: US$11.95
Ages: 5-7 years

This is a small, easily manageable book aimed at very young children. It would be suitable for those unable to read on their own as the photographs are so special. The photographs of penguins are captivating and beautiful. Children love to look at photographs (in fact, even babies do) and these pictures would be no exception as the images of penguins are clear, colourful and do offer some information as to the life cycle of the penguin. For those learning to read the text is clear, simple and understandable. As the introduction correctly states, 'The repetition of words and phrases helps early readers learn new words'. The back pages contain Words to Know, Read More, Internet Sites and an Index/Word List. I love this - encouraging children to investigate and instigate their own learning. It is also worth noting that this series supports national science standards. Review by Maureen Domoney

Penguins and Their Chicks
by Margaret Hall
Capstone Press - Pebble Plus
ISBN: 0 7368 2109 0
Price: US$12.95
Ages: 5-7 years

Penguins and Their Chicks is on a slightly larger scale than the previous book. It is again full of wonderful photographs of penguins and the same clear, simple easy to read text. The book tells us exactly what penguins do and how they live. And again, useful information is presented on the back pages, enabling and encouraging children to learn, and to learn by their own research. These two books are very similar and I wondered why they couldn't be incorporated, and then perhaps offered in both sizes. Review by Maureen Domoney

Life in a Polar Region
by Carol K. Lindeen
Capstone Press - Pebble Plus
ISBN: 0 7368 2100 7
Price: US$12.95
Ages: 5-7 years

For me this book is worth it just for the photographs of the polar bear and the arctic fox. Again in clear simple language the book describes what a polar region is, where they are and the animals that live there. Each description is supported by a beautiful image, and this time as well as polar animals the book tells us about polar plants. The descriptions are very brief, but again there is tons of information on the back pages. Review by Maureen Domoney

The Inuit: Ivory Carvers of the North
by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack
Blue Earth Books
ISBN: 0 7368 2171 6
Price: US$17.95
Ages: 7-9 years

This book is a great resource aimed at older children. It has chapters with much more detail and information than the previous books mentioned. The book has tons of information, from why they are called Inuit, to finding food and hunting, their homes and how they build them. The book also covers their ancestors, art, jewellery, carving, shamans, storytelling, how they have developed and what they do today. The reader can find out how to make a carving from soap and instructions on making a genuine Inuit game. There is also an Inuit story telling how a crow brings daylight to the Arctic in summer, and even a recipe for blueberry-topped snowcream!

This book really brings to life how very resourceful and tenacious the Inuit are. 'They made walrus skin into waterproof boats. Sealskin boots and mittens kept feet and hands warm and dry. They melted snow inside animal bladders for drinking water. To light their homes, the Inuit burned oil made from seal fat.' We are told how the Inuit invented Parkas and snow goggles and how they are committed to keeping their culture and traditions alive.

This book is interesting, informative and accessible. Each chapter is very concise, yet builds a vivid picture of the Inuit and their culture, using photographs and illustrations to great effect. I was surprised just how much information, both written and pictorial, was packed into these pages. Review by Maureen Domoney

Do Penguins Have Puppies? A Book About Animal Babies
by Michael Dahl, Illustrated by Sandra D'Antonio
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1 4048 0102 2MC
Price: US$15.95
Ages: 4-8 years

The idea of this book is to enable children to learn about baby animals, and it certainly succeeds in its aim to introduce interesting snippets of information, such as what baby animals are called, what they can do, what they like to do, special physical attributes and so on. So for example, the young reader learns that 'baby horses, called foals, can stand an hour or two after they are born. Soon they are running, jumping and playing. Foals also have a good sense of smell. A foal can find its mother by her smell.'

The book's illustrations are colourful and humorous. But for me it is the latter that presents the book's Achillies Heel, as the drawings require a small leap of the imagination to accurately identify the animals. Children at the age this book is aimed at need to recognise at this stage and not have to decipher.

What I did like, however, came at the back of the book where we find a couple of pages of more animal facts and information, such as animal babies that are hatched from eggs and those that are born in the open air. It also includes animal words to know ('den - a place where a bear sleeps. A bear's den might be a cave or hollow tree') and a list of various websites.

I certainly wouldn't purchase the book for its illustrations, but I liked all the animal facts and it is a good first stage to learning about animals. Review by Maureen Domoney

Who Grows Up in the Snow? A Book About Polar Animals and Their Offspring

by Theresa Longenecker, Illustrated by Melissa Carpenter

Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1 4048 0028 XMC
Price: US$14.95
Ages: 5-9 years

Another book about baby animals, but this time only those that grow up in the snow. It's written in simple clear language, telling us what they are called and giving us interesting facts about the first few weeks of life. Again, at the back is much more information, which I feel widens the age suitability. It gives the names for baby animals, what they eat, how they are born, words for male and female and the words for the groups of animals, where they live and words to know. There is even an at-home experiment to help understand how snow animals keep warm.

I liked this book - not only for all the extra stuff at the back, but in particular for the beautiful illustrations that present clear, understandable images. Review by Maureen Domoney


The Arctic Ocean and The Antarctic Ocean
by Anne Ylvisaker
Bridgestone Books
ISBN: Arctic 0 7368 1423 XMC and Antarctic 0 7368 1420 5MC
Price: US$18.60 each
Ages: 5-10 years

These two books give concise facts and figures about the Antarctic and Arctic Ocean in clear understandable English. The text is supported by photographs and diagrams. The books are full of jaw-dropping facts, such as 'The Antarctic Ocean covers about 8 million square miles.' I was constantly amazed at reading information like this (although for someone who was thrown out of geography at thirteen, perhaps this should be taken with a pinch of salt). As with the first two books reviewed there is more information at the back, such as an experiment, words to know, Internet sites and a book list.

Each photograph is accompanied by a fun fact. We learn that 'In 1893, a Norwegian ship became stuck in ice in the Arctic Ocean. It stayed frozen in place for three years until it finally broke free. Luckily, the crew had bought enough food to last five years.' I wonder if the crew would have thought this as a fun fact?

These books give good clear, concise information. The facts are amazing - but for some reason these books just don't excite me. It's all just pure information - a bit like reading an encyclopedia. But if a youngster already has an interest in the subject, the books probably have the wow factor that is missing for me. All the same, a useful addition to a children's library. Review by Maureen Domoney


I AM ESKIMO Aknik my name
by Paul Green, illustrated by George Ahgupuk
Alaska Northwest Publishing Company
Ages: 7-12 years

An authentic collection of Alaskan Eskimo stories with authentic illustrations. The author Paul Green (known as Aknik to other Eskimos) decided to write his own story of the Eskimo's after being unimpressed by visiting writers' accounts. An Eskimo friend George Ahgupuk (a well-respected artist) accompanies the writing with simple pen illustrations.

This book is both economical with word and line. The line drawings are simple, honest representations of Eskimo life. The writing is simple and hasn't been westernized, and one soon starts to imagine the author's accent and acclimatises very quickly.

There are many accounts of hunting, food, animals, stories and even kissing. 'I think that why our old Eskimo rubbing their nose for kiss, so they won't spread T.B. germ among themselves. Now we younger generation learn our kisses from white people and just forget about our old generation Eskimo rubbing nose kiss.'

This is an interesting insight into Eskimo culture, giving a very clear picture of how they live. My only whinge is the cover. Why is a subject that is not mainstream and deserving a wider audience portrayed in such a boring way? It looks like a post-War design for an Eskimos ration book. Review by Maureen Domoney



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