Monday, August 25, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

Bertozzi, author of several other historical/nonfiction graphic novels tackles the epic journeys of Shackleton, specifically the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914.

The book begins with the failed British expeditions, ending in the disastrous Scott expedition that was beaten by Amundsen and died on the return journey. However, despite setbacks and discouragement, Shackleton was obsessed with the south pole and refused to give up. The expedition intended to be the first group to cross the Antarctic. They had careful plans, a relief ship waiting on the other side, and everything seemed like clear sailing. Unfortunately, they met disaster almost immediately, when their ship was trapped in the ice and crushed. Despite hunger, cold, illness, potential mutiny and hallucinations, the expedition team survived and completed their expedition.

The book opens with an author's note mentioning that some parts of the story were "compressed for dramatic reasons." It ends with an epilogue giving a general idea of what happened to the members later and a list of sources.

The black and white art, neatly divided into small panels, accurately conveys the boredom and endless white wilderness of the Antarctic and the men's grim struggle to survive. Most of the characters are featureless, populating each small panel like posed figures in a silent film, moving a little farther on for each successive step in the story. It's effective and artistic and fits the story well, showing the isolation and privation of the journey.

So, this sounds great, right? Actually, I really disliked this book. The more I read it, the more irritated I got. The book itself is fine, if you're into Antarctic exploration. I'm not. I can discount my boredom on the premise that I'm not interested in the subject matter. What I find really annoying is the fact that we have here yet another book about a dead white male explorer. Again, not my field of interest, but looking at it from my perspective, the guy got funding for an expensive and basically pointless expedition just because he liked wandering around in the Antarctic and wanted to prove a point about the British Empire. What, exactly, was the point of the expedition and why are people still writing books about it? A quick search in our library consortium turns up 136 items on Shackleton, including 5 for children and teens just on the first couple pages. Why do we need another book on the same old, tired canon of male explorers? I'd like to see more biographies of overlooked historical figures - there are plenty of female explorers to choose from.

Verdict: It's not just that I don't like Shackleton (I don't) it's that I'm completely fed up with the continued churning out of biographies of the same group of people. I wouldn't buy any more biographies of Amelia Earhart either. The book would be of interest to someone who has an interest in the topic, but the art style isn't going to attract any of my teen patrons and I'm looking for more diversity in my collection development.

ISBN: 9781596434516; Published 2014 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

1 comment:

Resh said...

That was an interesting read!I agree that there are a lot more topics/people to write about. Maybe its just "easier" to pick, research and write on something that is already done? I guess as long as there is a different point of view or perspective to the same subject, it would be plain boring. Thanks for sharing the review!