Into The White. Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
When I went to school the ill fated race to the South Pole between Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen was known by everybody. It’s a story that should never be forgotten and thankfully Joanna Grochowicz has written this simply told and accessible account of Scott’s famous journey.
Joanna lays the facts before you to let you the reader understand and decide why this journey ended so badly. Many blame Scott himself for being a poor decision maker and being aloof from his men. There is ample evidence for you to make up your own mind but I think it is fair to say that if the facts surrounding this trip were put on the table today, no body would go for it.
Patriotism can be an overly persuasive emotion and I think it was with this trip. Showing the Norwegians whose boss got in the way of safety. Scott had mistakenly taken ponies and motorised sleds. Both failed. Amundsen took dogs, 200 of them. He finished with 11.
Scott suffered appalling weather conditions on the Great Ice Barrier. Heavy snow caused men to sink up to their shins and ponies to leave holes a foot deep. White out conditions demoralised the men as they tried to pick a course through a blank wall of white. Scott planned for 16 kilometers a day but they were lucky if they did half that.
The journey across the Great Ice Barrier up the Beardmore Glacier and across the High Plateau was formidable . Food and fuel were short, the men were constantly freezing. Sometimes to stand outside for 2 minutes would cover the men from head to foot in snow. That they got so far was miraculous. After the horses died the men dragged their heavy supply sleds themselves.
Read this superb account to find out the full story. It is gripping.
Sarah Lippett’s illustrations at the head of every chapter enhance the reality of the story and Herbert Ponting’s photographs are astonishing. Take a look at the photo of Dr Atkinson’s frostbite to see what it looks like.
This book like the story of Scott, Bowers, Oates, Wilson and Evans is unforgettable. The last days will bring a tear to your eye.
Wide appeal from primary students through to Young adult.
The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.
Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.
When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.
Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.
An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”
Teens and Young Adults will love it.
My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.
If you have ever been able to count the number of teeth in a dogs mouth while it yawns then you are probably dealing with an old dog. Mouse is an old dog with thin droopy ears who is a little over weight and moves real slow.
The little girl with the androgynous hairstyle loves the old dog and always asks the owner if she can take him for a walk.
Wearing her flared green dress with black tights and her back pack she takes Mouse for a walk around the block, through the park, right turn and home again.
They both love it and are clearly comfortable together. This is the way it should be.
“I wish Mouse was mine” the little girl says after dropping him off. The last page will put a lump in your throat. Don’t miss this one. Great for studying pets and reading aloud to juniors.
The illustrations are laid back. Easy autumnal water colours accompanied with pencil etchings. The illustrations also make social commentary – the supermarket trolley left behind, the cigarette butts on the ground outside for smokers.
Bloodsuckers. The most irritating creatures of all. by Paul Zborowski. Pub. New Holland, 2017.
There is something about bloodsuckers that inspires fear and horror in human beings and this splendid publication will not make it any easier for you but it will put you right on what they are and how they go about their work.
Starting with leeches that need blood to mate and after cutting into you can gorge themselves on your blood up to several times their own weight. They can be useful in medicine and are still used in plastic surgery. The one that lives up a hippopotamus’s bum is very interesting. After gorging itself the short sharp movements of the hippopotamus’s tail help remove it.
Mosquitoes, tics, bedbugs, tsetse flies, lice and others are also covered plus the sea creatures the lamprey and hagfish. The one everybody wants to know about is of course the vampire bat and when you know it can run along the ground shave your hair and drink without you knowing, your blood will really curdle.
Terrific photographs, computer generated diagrams and information bubbles on life cycle of these creatures makes this book an essential purchase for primary school libraries. Its a great start for research by secondary school students and there are online addresses at the back of the book for further research.
A very classy publication.
Mr Postmouse goes on Holiday by Marianne Duboc. Pub. Book Island, 2017.
A splendid sequel to the first Mr Postmouse picture book which is also reviewed on this blog.
Mr Postmouse his wife and three children go on a World holiday, but of course a postmans lot is never done and he takes some mail to deliver as well.
They visit a forest and a beach then take a cruise ship to a volcanic island, a camel train across the desert and to other exotic locations.
Each two page spread has it’s own story to tell and detail for children to ponder over. For example in the forest we meet Hansel and Gretel on their way to the house made of sweets and gingerbread.
There are also little bubles that look at creatures living their lives underground, there is even an igloo.
Lots of fun in this easy to read publication.
it’s my pond by claire garralon. Pub. Book Island, 2016.
This multi layered picture book has some depth and a lot to say about the human condition. It is for everybody but a great junior story with much to discuss and think about.
Yellow duck sees a nice pond and claims it for his own. White duck sees the pond too and negotiates to share it with yellow duck. Then many ducks of different colours take their share and all is tense as each duck guards his/her own piece of pond.
Black duck arrives and tells them they all look miserable and that ponds should be fun places. They all agree and things are fine.
Suddenly everything changes. To find out what it is you will need to read the book yourself but be warned it is brilliant.
Simple written text and easy on the eye primary coloured illustrations. You will love it.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
It is Spring break in America and while all of 16 year old Starr’s friends are talking about going to Taipei, the Bahamas and Harry Potter World she watches a cop kill her childhood friend and has his blood spill all over her.
Yes this is a tough book but it is essential that stories like this are told and the dangers of racism are seen for what they are. The story clearly grew out of events in USA that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement and it is difficult to see a more powerful novel about this topic come out anywhere in the World this year. It will stun you.
Khalil is also 16 years old he runs with the gangs because he has to. His mother is a Meth freak. He sees no other alternative, she needs help. Starr was his childhood friend and he takes her to a party where shots are fired, some boy is killed and on the car ride away from the party they are pulled over by the cop who kills Khalil.
Starr’s father has experienced the gang life, served jail time and now runs a store and taken his family away from that life. Starr goes to an essentially white school where if the white boys talk street slang they are cool but if the black girl does she is “hood”.
Starr also has a white boyfriend.
This powerful novel looks at the killing and asks questions about justice and racism. It also looks at the families of those living in the “hood” and their options in life. It is easier for them to find crack than it is to find a good school.
The way this story is spun by the different sides seems typical of Trump’s America where false news dominates and spin is more important than truth. As an Australian mate of mine said “this is a flamin’ good story”.
Senior fiction and Young Adult. It is simply written with the dialogue between characters superb. The phrase “stank Eye” really tickled me. If you don’t know it I bet you feel the same. The title comes from a rap by Tupac Shakur, put the first letter of each word of the title together and you get THUG. You will kick yourself if you miss this one.