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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002

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  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

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Picture Books We Love

Ernest Shackleton: Two Amazing New Books

“The only true failure would be to not explore at all.” – Ernest Shackleton

Ever since I first heard about Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, I’ve been completely fascinated by his amazing journey. A true epic story of discovery, adventure, perseverance, and danger.

Ernest Shackleton was a British explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic, the last undiscovered frontier at the turn of the 20th century. Although he wasn’t the first to make it to the South Pole, his memorable voyage in the Endurance marked the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Despite all odds (including getting his ship stuck in the ice, marooning the crew without enough supplies) Ernest Shackleton was able to cross the continent and return to England with all his entire crew still alive. Sometimes you can’t even make up stories better than history.

While I haven’t seen much in the way of children’s books about Ernest Shackleton, I was pleased to discover not one, but two new releases this season.

The first is a beautifully illustrated picture book, Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (Flying Eye Books, 2014).

This is a book that will appeal to adult art lovers, picture book fans and history buffs (of which, I fall into all three categories), children and adult alike. The book’s large format gives ample space for detailed colored pencil illustrations and the perfect pacing for such a fascinating journey. 

Large and striking double-paged illustrations are juxtaposed with pages of tiny, detailed drawings, breaking out fascinating specifics, such as crew member of the ship, each dog, the supplies used to build the ship, maps, and even the supplies carried during each leg of the journey. 

The text includes a great amount of detail without being too dry or too gory (while no men’s lives were lost, we do have to say good-bye to the dear sled dogs) for young readers, making  the book an excellent fit for ages 8 and up. A glossary can be found in the back with definitions of bolded words in the text that may be new to some readers such as crevasse, cross-bracing or crow’s nest. A debut book from William Grill, I hope to see a lot more from him!

The second new title, Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi (First Second, 2014) releases June 17th and is a graphic novel version of the epic adventure.  I’ve enjoyed a few other non-fiction graphic novels by Bertozzi, including Houdini: The Handcuff King.

Here, the graphic novel format lends itself very well to the action of the voyage, giving a very cinematic feel. I really enjoyed that, like Grill above, Bertozzi gives a pictorial representation of every crew member and every single dog, as well as the details of Endurance, mapping out and labeling each section and lifeboat.

There is such an amazing amount of detail in each small panel, but the pacing is done quite well, making the perfect balance between maps, dates and facts and emotion, dialogue and action. The pace of the book and creative paneling makes it a quick and engrossing read, best for a slightly older reader, ages 12 and up.

Also, just for fun, if you’re a fan of Ernest Shackleton, be sure to check out follow @EShackleton on Twitter, where artist Peggy Nelson has been retelling Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Arctic Expedition in daily live-tweet style. Definitely worth following.

Do you have any favorite non-fiction children's books on Ernest Shackleton or other explorers? Let us know in the comments below.

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