CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 36. . . .May 16, 2014
Expedition to the Arctic. (Crabtree Chrome).
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2014.
48 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $11.95 (pbk.) $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1177-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1169-8 (RLB.), ISBN 978-1-4271-8930-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4271-8922-6 (html).
Arctic regions-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile literature.
Northwest Passage-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile literature.
North Pole-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Mary Thomas.
Europeans began to explore the Arctic in earnest to find a new trade route in the 1500s. They wanted to trade goods with Asia. If they sailed west, they were blocked by the continents of North and South America. They hoped that they could find a quicker route across the top of North America, which became known as the Northwest Passage.
The Race to the North Pole
Some Arctic explorers weren't interested in finding the Northwest Passage. They wanted to get to the North Pole. American Charles Hall was the captain of a ship called the Polaris. He wanted to be the first person to reach the Pole. In June 1971, Hall set out from New York on his record-breaking attempt.
Expedition to the Arctic is just what its name implies -- except that the plural “Expeditions” would be a more accurate title. It starts with the earliest records of Greek explorers in the fourth century B.C. who described a land to the north where the sun never sets, but the bulk of the book deals with attempts to find the Northwest Passage from Europe to Asia. Naturally, Franklin's disastrous expedition -- two ships and all men lost -- takes up a fair fraction of the book, but Peary's and Hall's race for the North Pole and Amundsen's final success in reaching the Pacific are there as well.
Crabtree has made a name for itself as a publisher of factual books that appeal to students from about Grade 4 up into high school. The usual format includes text that is in small, easily digested chunks; difficult words that are printed in bold-faced type and then explained in a glossary (this volume has them defined at the bottom of the first page on which they occur as well); and pictures that are authentic, colourful, and apt. This book conforms to these standards.
As well, the facts, I'm sure, are accurate, but the writing can only be described as sloppy. On page 7: "Few plants grow in the Arctic. None at all grow at the North Pole." There is no land at the North Pole; of course there are no plants! On page 43: "So far only 11 international crossings have been made through the Passage since Amundsen's journey." So far? How many 10-year-olds know where to find the date of publication of a book? Or did the author mean at time of writing which could have been a year earlier? On page 13, the caption for one picture reads: "Franklin and his men prepared well for their expedition. They knew they may be gone for years." Either one writes in the present tense, or in the past. Not both. As I said -- sloppy.
On the other hand, the book does give a quick run-through of European activity in the Arctic from earliest times, and some idea of the difficulties encountered. Given the importance of the region to Canadians, it is good to have such a reference book available. But it would have been nice if the authors/editors could have found a better illustration for Stefansson's expedition than an American stamp (without a date).
Recommended with Reservations.
Mary Thomas lives and works in Winnipeg, MB, and prefers reference books that pay attention to details.
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