Reading Diary: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

First Second Books has done it again!

They've published another wonderful science-themed graphic novel that belongs on every bookshelf.

(Of course, they publish tons of other non-science themed graphic novels too. One of my particular favourite recent ones in the biography of Andre the Giant. The Zita the Spacegirl series is also wonderful beyond words.)

This time Nick Bertozzi's Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey brings us the history of Ernest Shackleton's crazy epic Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17. And epic is about the understatement of the century in describing this multi-year voyage to Antarctica and attempted trek across the continent and the pole itself. All the while the crew maintains a serene kind of old-fashioned stiff upper lip that seems almost comical if it wasn't so heroic.

I have to admit that it was a voyage I didn't really know that much about before reading this book -- the shear length of the voyage coupled with the combination of being essentially stranded in the south seas & polar area for literally years, trapped in an ice-locked vessel, floating at sea on ice floes and life rafts, in remote camps. Insane stuff, really. To say the least, this graphic novel has really piqued my interest to pursue the topic more. And handily, Bertozzi provides additional resources at the end! Nothing like a book with a good bibliography at the end.

Bertozzi does a great job of telling the story of Shackleton's voyage, mostly concentrating on Shackleton himself but allowing some of the other crew members some time in the spotlight. His story telling is crisp and to the point, picking various high lights of the ordeal ("Endurance crushed by ice" or "Escaping an ice run" are examples) and letting those incidents move along the narrative. His art is also clear and clean, a straightforward vehicle for pure storytelling.

While aimed at a kids market, I would recommend this book to all audiences. It would make a great gift to any history, science or graphic novel lover. Any school or public library of any size would find an eager audience for this exciting story. Academic libraries that collect graphic novels would also do well to get this one.

Bertozzi, Nick. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey. New York: First Second, 2014. 128pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596434516.

Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

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