cover image The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish

The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish

Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-618-00341-9

The author merges fact and conjecture with mixed results in this dense account of the 1913 expedition of a ship named the Karluk (the Aleutian word for ""fish""). The vessel sailed north from British Columbia toward the Arctic Circle and stopped at Alaska's Point Barrow to pick up an I upiaq family. The expedition's mission, ""to study the plants and people in the high north,"" takes a backseat when the Karluk becomes locked in ice and eventually sinks--survival becomes the crew's goal. Unlike Snow Bentley, in which Martin neatly balanced the historical framework with telling anecdotes, here details of the expedition outweigh the human story--despite some interesting facts (e.g., ""Qiruk, the mother, could look at a man,/ cut a fur skin with her round-bladed ulu, and sew a pair of pants/ that would fit him exactly""). Though the author guesses about how various family members feel while awaiting rescue (she writes about one daughter, ""Maybe she looked into the seal oil lamp and heard/ her grandmother singing the song of home./ And she did not feel so lonely""), Martin does not speculate about why the I upiaq family leaves their grandmother and their home to travel by sea with strangers. Despite scattered moments of suspense and Krommes's (Grandmother Winter) engaging, earth-toned scratchboard art, youngsters are apt to find this journey laborious and slow moving. Ages 6-up. (Feb.)