Lawrence tells the gut-wrenching tale of Englishman Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated trek to the South Pole in the first-pony voice of a white pony named James Pigg who was actually part of the expedition.
An unnamed narrator’s lively, context-providing segments precede each chapter and dramatically set the stage for the rivalry between Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen: “The year is 1910, and a great adventure is beginning. It will take two years to finish and will end in a desperate race across the bottom of the world, with a dead man being the winner.” Captain Scott decides to bring dogs as well as 20 light-colored ponies—light only because Shackleton’s dark-colored ones all died. James Pigg wasn’t always James Pigg—he was a Manchurian pony roaming free until he was captured, and broken, by men. Along with the compassionate and affable James Pigg’s unflinching chronicle of Scott’s journey and its accompanying horrors from frostbite to death, his equine perspective allows an insightful exploration of the relationships of men to dogs and ponies alike, revealing both cruelty and extraordinary kindness, even love. The author’s note, in which Lawrence describes his childhood hero-worship of Scott and his initial attraction to James Pigg’s story is as fascinating as the rest.
A survival story so vivid readers will want to don a warm jacket and have a comforting bowl of soup within reach. (map of explorers’ routes, cast of characters, author’s note, acknowledgments, about the author) (Historical fiction. 9-14)