Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nonfiction: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

1. Bibliographic data
Armstrong, Jennifer. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Crown Books for Young Readers, New York, 2000.
ISBN: 0-517-80014-4

2. Brief plot summary
In the fall of 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew sailed from England in the hopes of exploring Antarctica. As the weather turned and the elements were against the Endurance, survival was all that was on their minds.

3. Critical analysis
In Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, Jennifer Armstrong has brought this exciting true story to life for young readers. In each chapter, Armstrong has carefully chosen specific events to describe and each page leaves you wanting more. The men aboard the Endurance had so much set against them, and yet the somehow “endured”. To add to the unbelievable story is amazing pictures taken by Frank Hurley. In Shipwreck, you have a nonfiction masterpiece that students will not want to put down until they have read the last page. Armstrong ends the book with, “Here’s to the long white road that beckons,/the climb that baffles, the risk that nerves./And here is to the merry heart that reckons/The rough with the smooth and nerve swerves.” This verse, from a New Zealand school song and one of Shackleton’s favorites, tells you so much about this amazing crew and their fearless leader. Armstrong has an obvious passion for this topic and has made Shipwreck a must read for young adults.

4. Review excerpts
a. School Library Journal: “"A book that will capture the attention and imagination of any reader."
b. Publisher’s Weekly: “Armstrong's absorbing storytelling, illustrated with dramatic black-and-white photographs, makes this an enthralling adventure."
c. Kirkus Reviews: “This unbelievable story is enhanced by the vigorous prose; from the captivating introduction through the epilogue, it is the writing as much as the story that will rivet readers."
d. Awards:
Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Fiction
ALA Notable Book for Children
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Horn Book Fanfare
Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year's Best Books

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
i. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing
ii. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctica Expedition by Caroline Alexander
b. Activities: The class could create a classroom timeline in order to help the students understand the timing of major events. I would also have the students focus on cause and effect of the major events.

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