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Shackleton's stowaway

by McKernan


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Gr 5-9–McKernan brings Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to the Antarctic alive through the eyes of its youngest crew member. Perce Blackborow, 18, hides in a cramped locker for two days until the Endurance is at sea before revealing his presence as a stowaway. Given a chance to disembark at South Georgia Island, he signs up as a steward and a gruff Shackleton insists that he write to his family: "Tell them what god-awful mischief you've got yourself into." The ill-fated ship is crushed in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest whaling station, forcing the crew to drag its lifeboats and gear across unstable ice floes. A perilous voyage takes them to Elephant Island, where they are stranded for months while Shackleton and five others go for help. Perce endures the worst of it, having no feeling in his frostbitten feet. Details of the ensuing amputation of toes are realistic, an example of the author's sharp eye for authenticity. Although fictional, Perce's diary entries add dimension to the character and blend imagination with historical accuracy. Several of the crew members are powerfully brought to life, including Perce's fun-loving mate, Billy; the obsessive rationer, Orde Lees; the compassionate Frank Wild; and Shackleton, the leader they all idolize. Add this suspenseful tale to adventure/survival collections.–Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

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From BookList, February 15, 2005, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Gr. 6-9. This fictionalized account of Ernest Shackleton's 1914-16 Antarctic expedition follows steward Perce Blackborow from the time he stows away on the Endurance through his harrowing experiences in the Antarctic (including the amputation of his toes). Sprinkled throughout the narrative are selections from Blackborow's pseudo-journal record that chronicles ongoing shipboard routines and the camaraderie among crew, in spite of fractious personalities and grim conditions. These passages speak with a seaman's voice and view the events and desperate circumstances through the eyes of the ordinary sailors, not the officers. Based on published and unpublished journals and interviews with Blackborow's family, this gritty survival story is an excellent supplement to nonfiction accounts such as Ice Story (1999) by Elizabeth Kimmel and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (2000) by Jennifer Armstrong. An epilogue describing the lives of the sailors after the rescue, a list of sources, a time line, a crew roster, and a bibliography are appended.


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