Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

From goodreads:
In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and 27 men sailed from England in an attempt to become the first team of explorers to cross Antarctica from one side to the other. Five months later and still 100 miles from land, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The expedition survived another five months camping on ice floes, followed by a perilous journey through stormy seas to remote and unvisited Elephant Island. In a dramatic climax to this amazing survival story, Shackleton and five others navigated 800 miles of treacherous open ocean in a 20-foot boat to fetch a rescue ship.

          Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World vividly re-creates one of the most extraordinary adventure stories in history. Jennifer Armstrong narrates this unbelievable story with vigor, an eye for detail, and an appreciation of the marvelous leadership of Shackleton, who brought home every one of his men alive.
     Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World is a survival story that pleasantly surprised me. The subject matter was something I wouldn't have picked up on my own. But it was assigned in my YA Lit class, so I picked it up. 
The facts that Armstrong presented were relevant and interesting. It was written in a way that allowed you to be a part of the story, without having to deal with freezing cold temperatures (although I did read this book wrapped up in a blanket!). She did a great job of combining narrative with informative facts. At the same time I read about the survivor’s ordeal, I was learning about different kinds of snow and ice, the dangerous weather conditions of the South Pole, the animals that inhabit that area, and what it takes to survive in these extreme conditions. My kids thought it was all very interesting. The pictures of the actual expedition that had been saved made it more real too.
By the end of the book I felt very connected to these men who survived this ordeal. I would have loved to have read more of the men’s journals, but understand that it may have made it less interesting for young adult readers. I marveled at the men's strength and endurance. I don’t think I would have survived such a feat—I whine enough as it is through our Utah winters. Shackleton was an inspiring leader. He never gave up or showed discouragement. I loved the quote, “But if you’re a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you’ve got to keep going.”   
I was glued to every page of the journey as the crew headed towards the South Pole and then endured harsh conditions until their rescue.

Rating: 3
Published: 9.2000

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