cover image Black Whitness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic

Black Whitness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic

Robert Burleigh. Atheneum Books, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81299-6

Burleigh (Flight) turns his attention from Charles A. Lindbergh to Admiral Richard Byrd in this picture book charting of the explorer's solo Antarctic sojourn. Burleigh's account follows Byrd to the underground hut where he lived for nearly six months, beginning in March 1934, and made scientific observations about his surroundings. Krudop's (Something Is Growing) evocative oil paintings, with their swirling brushstrokes and chilly palette of subdued blues, grays and blacks, suggest the remote continent's frozen landscape. The alien world is enthralling, with its cold so extreme that ice coats Byrd's sleeping bag and he can hear his breath freeze as it floats away, ""making a sound like firecrackers."" Burleigh's vivid descriptions, combined with lively excerpts from Byrd's journal, allow readers to experience it almost firsthand; they can feel for themselves the ""eerie silence"" in which Byrd lived, sense his panic at being trapped outside in a blizzard and cheer him on in his courageous struggle to survive carbon monoxide poisoning. Vigorously written and gracefully illustrated, this lively snapshot of one of the 20th century's most intrepid scientists records a landmark event rarely examined in children's books. Ages 7-12. (Mar.)