________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004


Death by Exposure: An Interactive Mystery.

Eric Walters. Photographs by Kevin Spreekmeester.
Vancouver, BC: Sandcastle Books/Beach Holme Publishing, 2004.
75 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-88878-442-2.

Subject Headings:
Problem solving - Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.
Code and cipher stories.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Lori Walker.

***½ /4


“Hey, what the--”

She smacked him again. “Be quiet. You don’t want to disturb the ice.”

He grinned. “ Do you think there’s evil spirits in the ice and we might wake them up if I speak too loud?”

“No,” she whispered, “but I do think there’s such a thing as an avalanche and they get triggered by loud sounds made by jerks.”

Ben’s smirk froze in place and then faded as he tilted his head and peered at the ice towering over them.

“C’mon, let’s get the toboggan and go,” Julia said.

Ben nodded and continued on. The toboggan was up ahead, lying on its side. He reached down, turned it over, and examined it. “No damage that I can see.”

Good. Now let’s get out of here and--” A look of terror flashed across Julia’s face.

“What’s wrong?” Ben demanded.

Her mouth moved, but no words came out. She raised a hand and pointed.

Ben turned and then saw it. Two legs-- human ones--stuck out of the ice...


Death By Exposure: An Interactive Mystery is a compelling combination of fiction and nonfiction. Best-selling author Eric Walters and photographer Kevin Spreekmeester weave together the story of an unidentified man buried in ice with camera equipment and notebook. To aid police in answering the questions surrounding his death, readers are asked to help decode numbers that correspond to the photos of Canadian landmarks captured on the film from the dead man’s camera. Do the numbers identify the latitude and longitude of the landmarks? Or do the numbers represent a secret code containing a message about who the man is and why he found himself in this fatal situation? And what does the message say? Instruction are provided to assist the reader in both sets of tasks. And along the way, readers may even pause to consider the beauty of the photos on their own, and how the dead man might have completed the poetic captions that were meant to accompany them.

     There are an number of qualities that make this book a “must have.” Walter’s narrative and exposition are both compelling and accessible. The book begins with an introduction to its unique nature and instruction. These are followed by 22 pages of story, 16 pages of photographs (sadly, black and white, although colour photos are available on the publisher’s website www.beachholme.bc.ca), then sections on latitude and longitude, secret codes, and notes on the photography and other related websites. The section on latitude and longitude includes basic information on what they are, how to use them, and how to find them through internet links to the Canadian Geographical Names Board of Canada page of the Natural Resources Canada website. The photography and its poetic text may seem somewhat ancillary to the more objective goals of revealing the message, but its inclusion not only adds a stronger sense of geography to the theme of the book but also recognizes that meaningful understanding can also be subjective and aesthetic in nature. And it adds another optional level of enjoyment for young readers who may chose to take on the various tasks that the book sets forth at different sittings.

     Walters is clearly successful in appealing to the grade three to six, eight to eleven year old set. Like many of his other books, there is an invaluable subtext that exciting things do happen in Canada, and this is a really cool place to be (literally and figuratively). Death by Exposure is appealing as an independent reading choice, but it would also shine in the classroom as a unique introduction to mapping, codes, and geography. A very generous assortment of websites that accompany the outstanding photos offer readers and teachers opportunities to learn more and dig deeper.

Highly Recommended.

Lori Walker is completing a Masters degree in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.