History has always had its ages of exploration, but the start of the 20th century is right up there.
Here in crisp novel format is Ernest Shackleton’s brainstorm—oh, call it a fever dream—to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole, an effort doomed when his approach vessel froze in pack ice in 1915. The story gets down to this: Shackleton tries to make sure that all 28 men on his expedition get home—the dogs and the cat don’t make it, ahem—in a story so preposterous that it has become legend. McCumiskey coaxes drama from the episode—dying of the cold, starvation, or wasting disease could be like watching grass grow—and Butler’s artwork brings emotional Technicolor to the land of white. His craggy linework is heroic even as it conveys the horrific conditions. Once on South Georgia Island, the men drive nails through their boots to climb the ice-encrusted mountains to get to the whaling station on the other side. Here we meet many of the book’s cruxes: “Always keeping a brave face, Shackleton knows the key to survival is all about keeping spirits high. He has come so far that he isn’t going to let nails piercing the soles of his feet stop him now.”
Through storm, burning cold, dehydration, disease, all 28 men returned after 22 “unexpected” months at sea; the book’s a success, too—no small feat for an oft-told tale. (Graphic nonfiction. 10 & up)