CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 14. . . .December 14, 2012
Willard Price is the Canadian born, American author of the classic “Adventure Series for Boys” books. Even though the first book in the series was written in 1949, this collection of 14 titles will still provide thrilling reading for its young audience. The reissue of the set will also present some interesting dialogue. The premise of the capture of animals for zoos as a conservationist approach to saving endangered species, and the language used by the two protagonists to describe the Inuit people and their customs reflect the period of the writing. Young readers can enter into a useful discussion on the changing trends regarding the appropriateness of language and attitudes toward culture in literature.
Arctic Adventure is the last title in the series and was first published in 1980. It features the exploits of promising zoologists Hal and Roger Hunt who have been sent to Greenland to capture and transfer Arctic animals to their father’s Hunt’s Wild Animal farm in New York. The animals will then be sold to zoos that can care for them. These exploits take the boys from the west coast of Greenland, to its ice cap, and then on to Churchill, MB, and Alaska.
Readers will have an exciting and varied reading experience. Their curiosity and attention will be aroused by the brothers’ adventures. Surviving frigid weather and near starvation on the trek to the ice cap, being trapped underwater in a kayak during a walrus hunt and searching the dangerous terrain near the Alaskan volcano Mt. Katmai for an Alaskan elk and a Kodiak bear will thrill young adventure seekers. Adding to the excitement is a mixture of humour and incredulity. The interaction between Roger and his older brother Hal provides some amusing situations. Young readers will also enjoy some of the dated and consequently comical situations. For example, it is presented as normal occurrences in the chapter “City of Polar Bears” that in Churchill, MB, bears wander the streets entering diners, hotels and even a church. Just as amusing is how the boys transported a polar bear back to New York on a bus. Although there will be skepticism arising from the methods of capturing large and dangerous animals, such as a polar bear, a humpback whale, and a muskox with a lasso or a sleep gun, as well as the befriending of the polar bear, Nanook, the stories are exciting, and the sense of adventure will engage readers.
It should be noted that, although the description of the Inuit, referred to as Eskimo, is, at times, inappropriate and inaccurate from a cultural perspective, the tone is respectful and the narrative emphasizes the strength, skill and positive traits of this northern people.
The question arises as to why young readers would read an adventure series that was written between thirty and sixty years ago. Willard Price has been quoted as saying: “My aim in writing the ‘Adventure’” series for young people was to lead them to read by making reading exciting and full of adventure. At the same time I want to inspire an interest in wild animals and their behavior.” Arctic Adventure provides the adventure seeker with a trip to the northern regions of Greenland, Manitoba and Alaska to encounter daring exploits in the capture and conservation of a wide variety of fascinating Arctic animals. The curiosity of young readers will be piqued as they experience encounters with characters from different cultures, remote places and unique wildlife. All of these ingredients make for a enjoyable adventure in reading.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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