Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Light

Stead, Rebecca. 2007. FIRST LIGHT. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375840173 [Suggested Grade Levels 4–8]

Peter is an inquisitive 11-year-old who accompanies his parents on a scientific exploration to Greenland. While exploring, he finds a circle of twisting scarlet strands imbedded in the glacier. The strands resemble a drawing his mother has made of the mitochondrial DNA that they are supposedly searching for, but Peter wonders if his mother is really searching for something else.

Thea is a headstrong 12-year-old whose ancestors were nearly driven to extinction who has only known life at Gracehope, a settlement built entirely under the ice in Greenland. Thea’s mother Mai died trying to reach the surface, and the story surrounding her death is altered to keep others in Gracehope from knowing the truth. When Thea is given a map, she discovers that a tunnel exists, and embarks on a quest to reach the surface.

Suspense builds as the chapters alternate between Peter and Thea as they get closer and closer to the entrance of the tunnel, where they finally meet. Stead explores the concept of fear of outsiders, and the price paid by a society that lets history get lost and lets fear control their actions. FIRST LIGHT is a suspenseful, intriguing story about a hidden society living in fear of the outside world, and readers will be glued to the pages leading up to a satisfying twist that connects Peter and Thea.

Encourage a writing exercise where readers create a fictional society existing in an isolated environment – what would their lives be like?

Other polar region adventures:
McKernan, Victoria. SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY. ISBN 0375826912
Taylor, Theodore. ICE DRIFT. ISBN 0152050817
White, Andrea. SURVIVING ANTARCTICA: REALITY TV 2083. ISBN 0060554541

By Tammy Korns

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