________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008


The Northwest Passage. (The Dreadful Truth; 5).

Ted Staunton. Illustrated by Remie Geoffroi.
95 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2007.
ISBN 978-0-88780-735-0.

Subject Headings:
Northwest Passage-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile literature.
Canada, Northern-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile literature.
Explorers-Northwest Passage-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Jean Nickel.

*** /4


It's not surprising that people from cultures as different as Europe and the Eastern Arctic didn't know what to make of each other. The Inuit called their visitors Kablunaat "men with bushy eyebrows" and Frobisher wasn't the first. Vikings, or Norsemen, had been in contact as early as 900 AD. But the Little Ice Age sent them packing. Later, explorers claimed to have encountered Inuit with blond hair and Scandinavian features, though there is no proof of this.


Fun and history combined into one book – what a great idea. The Northwest Passage starts out describing the Northwest Passage and why countries at that time considered it an important route to explore. Next, readers see some of the explorers that were sent out to find the route and the fate that befell them.

     The Northwest Passage also describes in a fun way the attitudes of the Europeans at the time and how this either helped or hindered them in their exploration. For example, many of the explorers and crews developed scurvy from the long voyage, but the Inuit never had this disorder.  Why? Because they ate raw seal meat, blubber, fresh caribou etc., all which contain vitamin C thus preventing this disease.  However, the explorers thought the Inuit diet to be repulsive and refused to eat it.

     This book also depicts how the explorers and their crews were stuck in the ice for long winters and how they passed their time until the ships were able to sail again. These explorers, when and if they made it back, found themselves to be the heroes of the day. As a result, men usually were willing to sign up for future voyages even though the conditions of the north were harsh.

     The Northwest Passage is a light read for students who find history dull and boring. It explains about the Northwest Passage and the men who were daring enough to explore this vast territory as well as the conditions they had to endure.

     The introduction starts with a 13-year-old boy named George Chambers and his setting sail with Sir John Franklin on the Erebus. The text states that George does not return; however, this is the only time he is mentioned in the book, and nothing else is said about his life on board the ship.

     The intriguing chapter titles, such as "Pass the Pepper," or "I Don't Think We Are in Kansas Anymore," are sure to catch a student's eye. Remie Geoffroi's illustrations are in black and white but are well done and show the same fun and humour as the text. The book contains a table of contents, but there is no index or glossary. In order for students to do an assignment using this material, they would have to read the book and pick out the pertinent information. The information is done in a story format and, as a result, does not contain a vast amount of details on the explorations themselves. The Northwest Passage would be useful for students who are studying explorers, exploration, or the Northwest Passage.

     The book's author, Ted Staunton, lives with his family in Port Hope, ON, and his book Confederation has been a Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice selection.  He is also known for his two series, "Morgan," and the "Green Applestreet Gang." Remie Geoffroi is an illustrator and commercial artist whose home base is Ottawa, ON.


Jean Nickel is a library technician at the Westglen School in Didsbury, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.