Framing an explorer’s expeditions from the viewpoint of a sidekick pet can engage readers, so long as the animal is not overly humanized.
In this case, the descriptions of Adm. Richard Byrd’s history-making flights over the South Pole and the North Pole are eye-opening, and they are told in tandem with the story of Igloo, the fox terrier Byrd was given in 1926. The accounts of the yearslong preparations and the details of the extreme weather conditions that derailed Byrd’s takeoffs more than once are intense. “It was so cold the eggs were frozen in their shells, and [the cook] had to boil them first before he could fry them.” There’s even a race within a race as Byrd and Roald Amundsen vie to be the first to the North Pole. Unfortunately, the emotions attributed to Igloo occasionally cross over the thin line between fact and imagination: “Igloo watched in horror as the plane crashed into a snowdrift.” What make the account work at all are the many quotations from Byrd and others that are folded into the account. Far too many of these are unattributed within the text, giving them the feel of invented dialogue; despite an impressive source list, nothing in the backmatter verifies them. Black-and-white photos add visual interest, but the scrapbook design that frames them is rather precious.
Man and dog versus nature is a good read, but this one needs better navigation. (index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 8-12)