Trapped by the Ice!
Michael McCurdy. Walker & Company, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8438-4
McCurdy (Hannah's Farm) uses pale, frosty paints and comparatively sketchy compositions--a marked departure from his trademark prints and scratchboard illustrations--to chronicle Sir Ernest Shackleton's (1874-1922) doomed third expedition to Antarctica, where he hoped to be the first to cross the polar ice cap. Written as dated entries, but in the third person the story begins on October 27, 1915, when Shack's ship becomes trapped in thick ice. What follows is a grim catalogue of mishaps: after their ship sinks, the explorer and his half-frozen crew sail in lifeboats to Elephant Island, where they find ""nothing but rock, ice, snow--and wind""; when Shack and a handful of his party seek help, they encounter ferocious hurricane and impassable mountain peaks. McCurdy includes gritty details to give a sense of daily life, noting that after more than five months without baths ""the men smelled terrible"" and that the crew drank rancid seal oil to stave off seasickness. Although they never accomplish their original goal, Shack and his colleagues survive against enormous odds. The bleakness of McCurdy's spare, largely monochromatic renderings of the Antarctic setting, however appropriate, offer little visual variety; moreover, his depictions of the explorers can be wooden. The unrelentingly harsh material does not yield a particularly rewarding story. Ages 7-10. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997