Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Antarctica: Journey’s to the South Pole

Antarctica: Journey’s to the South Pole

Walter Dean Myers
For ages 12 to and up
Scholastic, 2004   ISBN: 978-0439220019

James Cook, James Clark Ross, Charles Wilkes, Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen and many others all risked their lives to brave the freezing temperatures, the crushing shifting ice, and the unknowns to explore the region that we now call the Antarctic. Until Cook came home with his first observations there were still those who thought that perhaps a lush tropical land existed around the South Pole full of exotic peoples and creatures. Discovering that this was not so did not stop others from wanting to find out more about this extraordinary place. There were still questions that needed to be answered. Was there any land there at all or was it all just ice? Where was the magnetic South Pole? What kinds of plants and animals, if any, lived there?

One by one the adventurers brought back information and with them experience of what it was like to live and work in the Antarctic; for example what it was like to spend months and months in darkness, waiting for the Antarctic summer to arrive. For Scott and Shackleton there was that elusive South Pole which they tried and failed to reach together. Shackleton had to return to England with a bad case of scurvy but he did not give up on the Antarctic and would return to complete one of the greatest journeys of all time some years later. For Scott, the South Pole would always be a disappointment for though he did finally reach it, he was not the first and he and his men died in the attempt.

As is to be expected stories of Antarctic exploration are full of loss. Many men, ponies and dogs died in the effort to conquer the magnetic South Pole, the geographic South Pole, and to gather scientific data. Nevertheless many others survived and came home to tell the world about their trials, their successes, and their adventures. They became part of a very special brotherhood of explorers, a group of men whose stories continue to fascinate and inspire us today.

With great skill and attention to detail Walter Dean Myers gets inside the personalities and lives of the great Antarctic explorers. We not only discover what these men were like, but we also come to understand the challenges they faced at home, the worlds they belonged to, and the great sacrifices that they had to make to pursue their dreams.