________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 16 . . . . April 10, 1998

cover Trapped in Ice.

Eric Walters.
Toronto, ON: Viking/Penguin, 1997.
205 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 0-670-87542-2.

Subject Headings:
Arctic regions-Discovery and exploration-Canadian-Juvenile fiction.
Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918)-Juvenile fiction.
Shipwrecks-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.



I stopped writing again. Of course, it's a lot less dangerous to read about adventures than to actually be in one. I knew I enjoyed reading about them. I just wasn't sure how I felt about taking part in one. The heroes in stories never seem to be afraid, but I've been frightened ever since Mother first told us about what we were going to do.
Based on the real-life experiences of Captain Robert Bartlett and the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Trapped in Ice is a superb survival story. In July of 1913, the Karluk set sail with a complement of 36 crew, explorers and scientists and 54 sled dogs on what was to be a two year voyage of exploration and discovery. Within weeks, however, and well before reaching the expedition's wintering over site on Herschel Island, the ship was trapped by unseasonably early ice and its movement restricted to drifting along with the ice being carried by the current.

      The story's narrator is Helen Kiruk, 13, whose widowed mother had been engaged by Stefansson as the expedition's seamstress. While Capt. Bartlett was willing to tolerate a woman on board, he was vocally most displeased that Stefansson had allowed Mrs. Kiruk to bring her two children, the second being Michael, 11. Initially Helen, a romantic, both dislikes and fears the gruff captain, but, as she comes to know him better, she eventually realizes that his initial behaviours were actually related to his deep concerns for their safety in the dangerous, unpredictable north. What is remarkable about the story is that, for much of the book's length, the setting is actually static, that is, Helen is simply sitting on the tiny icebound Karluk in the midst of a seemingly endless vista of ice and snow, and yet, to readers, the story is seemingly filled with non-stop action as Helen participates in the preparations for the vessel's being crushed by the ice, an event which occurs in early January. Under Capt. Bartlett's leadership, the group then makes an arduous and dangerous trek some 120 miles across the ice to Wrangel Island. Throughout the enterprise, Helen finds that some adventures are better restricted to the pages of a book for, in the real world, she saves her sibling from being mauled by a polar bear and almost freezes to death while preventing the sled dogs from running away during a blizzard. A short "Postscript" brings closure to the story by explaining that the survivors were rescued on Sept. 7, 1914.

      While recreating an event which involved enormous personal courage, Walters has truly brought life to the characters, many of whom were just names in historical records. A work of historical fiction and adventure which should be added to all school and public libraries.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA lit. in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364