Thursday, October 24, 2013

Byrd & Igloo: A Polar Adventure

Byrd & Igloo: A Polar Adventure
by Samantha Seiple
Scholastic, 2013
review ARC provided by the publisher
review by Aloysius J. Wald

It is not our policy to accept unsolicited guest reviews, but when you live in the same house as a reader whose knowledge of the history of Arctic exploration would rival that of the historians who run the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University, and a book about Byrd shows up in a box of ARCs...well...let's just say that such a book moved to someone else's reading pile in a flash.

Samantha Seiple’s adventure history/biography, BYRD & IGLOO, A POLAR ADVENTURE, tells the story of Richard E. Byrd and his Polar explorations while accompanied by Igloo, his fox terrier. Not much has been written of late about Richard Byrd. His explorations were, largely, events that occurred late in the golden years of Arctic and Polar exploration. You could even make the case that Commander Byrd was the transitional figure between the time of absolute, blank map, first boots on the territory exploration, and the modern, mechanized scientific explorations that continue today.

The element of adding the companion dog, Igloo, to the mix and giving him a voice in the proceedings is something a bit new in this type of a history. While Igloo’s thoughts are highly anthropomorphic, it seems perfectly appropriate to the 8 to 12 age group for whom the book is written. This approach is important in light of the lack of newer material and general unfamiliarity of present readers regarding Commander Byrd and his accomplishments. Igloo helps to draw readers in who might otherwise reject a book on Polar explorations that occurred eighty years ago.

Ms. Seiple’s previous book, Ghosts in the Fog, provided history regarding the little examined Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands during World War II. In both of her historical works, she illuminates less known incidents in history. This is most welcome. The occurrences in both books are parts of larger historical events, in the case of Polar exploration, extending over centuries. Delving into more obscure aspects of history are not only entertaining in and of themselves, but provide both an entry point for the study of the larger histories of the subject and give a sense of the entire subject in microcosm.

Utilizing her background as a librarian and researcher, Samantha Seiple has accessed a great deal of resource material from the period of Byrd’s Polar work, which gives the book a contemporary feel, putting the reader in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Those readers who are drawn to additional readings in the subject of Polar exploration will discover a vast and complex topic. Readers who read Byrd & Igloo for an enjoyable story about mischievous dog will be rewarded with a good story.

For most readers in the 8 – 12 age group, BRYD & IGLOO, A POLAR ADVENTURE, should prove to be a good read.

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