Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shackleton's Stowaway

McKernan, Victoria. 2005. SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375826912 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Eighteen-year-old Perce Blackborow wants nothing more than to sail with legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. When he is passed over as a deckhand, Perce stows away below deck on the Endurance, knowing that Shackleton won’t turn the Endurance around to put him off. Perce mightily regrets his decision five months later when the Endurance becomes hopelessly trapped in the Antarctic ice. Over the next 18 months, the 28-man crew is forced to abandon the ship and survive on the ice, battling sub-freezing temperatures, lack of food, and constant danger of cracking ice. “He was patrolling the edge of the floe when there was a tremendous jolt. A crack ripped through the ice right between his feet. Even before he could shout an alarm, the crack raced on through the middle of camp. It split the ice in two, directly under the sailors’ tent.”

McKernan uses real life accounts of Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition as the basis for this work of fiction. Her research included interviewing Perce Blackborow’s family, reading diaries and excerpts from the ship’s log, and referencing numerous books about Shackleton, the Antarctic, and human endurance. All sources are listed, along with a timeline that chronicles the ill-fated expedition from cast off in August 1914 to the men’s rescue from Elephant Island in August 1916 to Shackleton’s death in January 1922. McKernan’s extensive research serves to give Perce Blackborow’s emotional story a passionate tone, while maintaining credibility in this fast-paced tale of adventure.

Challenge readers to work as a group and create a list of provisions they would take on an expedition to Antarctica. Have them take turns giving up their goods, and formulating a plan for survival.

Other books about Shackleton’s expedition:
Armstrong, Jennifer. SHIPWRECK AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD. ISBN 0517800144
Calvert, Patricia. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON. ISBN 076141485

By Tammy Korns

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