MYSTERY IN THE FROZEN LANDS
Volume 17 Number 3
What happened to John Franklin's 1845 arctic expedition? This historical mystery is the subject of Martyn Godfrey's latest novel. Set twelve years after Franklin's disappearance, it relates the adventures of a search group sent out to find any information or trace of Franklin and his crew.Godfrey is a popular and prolific writer for young people. (Among his better known works are the "Ms. Teeny Wonderful" series). Here, he is tackling a new genre, and he does so with assurance and authenticity. The story is told through the device of a diary, that of fourteen-year-old Peter Griffin, the ship's boy. (Peter is fictional but other characters and the mission itself are based in fact). The style and language are appropriate to a boy of Peter's age and time. And it is accessible to the modern reader. Particularly convincing is Godfrey's portrayal of the cold, bleakness and hardship endured by arctic explorers. A second theme is that of Peter's friendship with a young Inuit man. Their conversations successfully highlight the different world views of native and English man. Godfrey does take some artistic licence: for example, discoveries made by other expeditions are attributed to this one. These are noted in the book's foreword and by no means detract from its integrity. The conclusion is satisfying, with enough answers provided to meet the reader's curiosity. And it remains true to what is actually known and hypothesized about Franklin's fate. The novel does have flaws. Peter is the only character with much development. There are also lapses where the documentary aspects overshadow character and story-line. Nevertheless, this is a good book for readers who enjoy adventure and survival fiction. It would also be a good choice to supplement class units on the Arctic. The paperback is of good quality, and this is the format most likely to appeal to the intended age group. Recommended for school and public library fiction collections.
Marion Scott, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, ON.
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