________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 18 . . . . May 8, 1998

Cover Across Frozen Seas.

John Wilson.
Vancouver, BC: Beach Holme, 1997.
124 pp., paper, $8.95.
ISBN 0-88878-381-7.

Subject Headings:
Northwest Passage-Juvenile fiction.
Arctic regions-Discovery and exploration-Juvenile fiction.
Franklin, John, Sir, 1786-1847-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3 - 7 / Ages 8 - 12.
Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


Sir John is no longer a young man, and the voyage has taken a toll on him. He always appears confident and cheerful in front of the men, but he has lost weight and seems almost to be sagging under the burden of leadership. ...

"Good day lad," Franklin smiles faintly at me,..."Are you keeping watch for Mister Gore?"

"Aye sir," I stammer nervously. "His will be a great achievement."

"It will be that." The smile broadens. "To complete the passage is what we came for. But it is our scientific work that will live on long after our journey is forgotten. This stretch of water is of no use for commerce....The only force strong enough to compel men to suffer in these latitudes is the desire to learn."

What really happened to Sir John Franklin's expedition which set off with such high aspirations and the best possible equipment from London in the spring in 1845, determined to make its way through Northwest Passage to Alaska? As the Canadian Arctic is gradually opened up, more and more remains of the ships, men and equipment have been discovered, and John Wilson has taken these facts and woven them into a fascinating novel which is a blend of time travel and historical fiction.

      Dave Young, who lives in Saskatchewan, has always been fascinated by tales of the North and is determined to go to the Arctic one day. His father's business is not being successful, and, as tensions build at home, Dave finds himself retreating more and more into a series of incredibly vivid narrative dreams each night - dreams in which he is a cabin boy on Sir John's ship, sails with him across the Atlantic and endures four winters frozen in the Arctic ice in the vicinity of King William Island.

      The story is cleverly told, tying in Dave's increasing loneliness at home and Davy's isolation on board ship, hinting at reasons why, for example, the officers should be dying at a more rapid rate than the common sailors (they ate more of the "high class" tinned food contaminated by the lead solder used to seal the cans) without resorting to anachronistic musings on the part of Davy or other members of the crew. Dave, on the other hand, tells us enough of his present-day research into Franklin's voyage that we recognize just what is explaining what, giving us a pleasurable sense of our own cleverness.

      The accompanying guide (free with the purchase of a classroom set of twenty books) includes copies of archival materials, and photographs, as well as suggestions for extended use of the book in the classroom. It also includes a useful enlargement of the map which is printed on the inside cover. Indeed, my only complaint about the book is that the map is too small and is on the inside front cover, while the legend explaining it is inside the back cover. Otherwise it is a well designed book.

      The question that occupied me for the final third of the book was how the Dave/Davy identification could be resolved without killing off the modern protagonist. Rest assured - Wilson manages a very plausible and satisfying ending to the Franklin story. The resolution of Dave's home difficulties is less absolute but offers some hope in that his parents finally agree that there is a problem and that a family therapist might help. How satisfying you find this depends on your faith in family therapy!

Highly recommended.

Mary Thomas works in the libraries of two elementary schools in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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

Copyright © 1998 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