Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shackleton's Journey (2014)

Shackleton’s Journey
William Grill
(Flying Eye Books)
Hardcover, 80 pages
Recommended for readers 7 and up

I could kick myself for not reading Shackleton’s Journey sooner. Although the book was published in February of this year, I’m only now getting around to reading it and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the best graphic novels for younger readers I’ve read in 2014. 

In the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton's dreams were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue. 

Shackleton's Journey is the true story of how Shackleton and his crew managed to survive this epic adventure, and a testament to their great courage and endurance.

This text, from author/illustrator William Grill’s website, gives you everything you need to know about the story and Grill’s sample pages provide a tantalizing look at just some of the book’s visual rewards. Working in colored pencils, Grill expertly captures the vastness of Antarctica, the exhilarating sense of adventure, and the incredible dangers faced by the men of the Endurance

Much of the story’s point of view is conveyed from a distance. Rarely do we see close-ups of characters, yet we get to know these men - as well their hopes and fears - quite intimately. The historical narrative works wonderfully with the illustrations, combining words and images in a way makes you realize that having one without the other would be unimaginable. This is exactly what graphic novels should do and Grill does it extremely well. 

In a time when we see so many recreations - both on film and in graphic novel form - that are ultra-dramatized, complete with overused close-ups of characters in fear/determination/outrage/choose your emotion, Grill’s artwork provides a refreshing alternative. Shackleton’s Journey is a fascinating story that instructs, entertains, and provides something that’s sadly lacking in most graphic novels: a sense of wonder. 


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