DR. KANE OF THE ARCTIC SEAS
Volume 21 Number 5
This third book in the series "Exploring the Frozen North" has as its hero a rather unpleasant American, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane. There is very little available on Kane, but this is probably due to the fact that he was "a better writer than explorer." In a non-fiction series committed to the use of "archival evidence," Kane's popular accounts of his northern journeys are perhaps more relevant than his lack of success in Canada's Arctic.
The tales of Kane's trials and tribulations in the north are interesting and often exciting. This excitement, however, is sometimes obscured by long, ornate sentences, which, while admittedly evocative, may be daunting for some middle grade readers. The audience's likely level of general knowledge also needs to be kept in mind during the editing process; scurvy - that plague of all northern expeditions - is first mentioned on page 19, but a brief explanation of its cause is not given until page 49.
Berton also recounts the story of Kane's romance with American medium (and fake) Margaret Fox. Though perhaps a valiant attempt to inject a female element into the male-dominated history of northern exploration, this story of an on-again/off-again love affair is pretty thin stuff after rousing images of polar treks and creaking ice packs.
Paul McCusker's illustrations are interesting, and maps and an index help to make this slim volume a usefu1 addition to any library's biography collection.
Trina Preece is a children's librarian in Scarborough, Ontario.
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