[Review] Shackleton’s Journey
William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey is a picture book about Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica in 1915.
To this day the story of Ernest Shackleton and crew crossing the perilous continent of Antarctica is legendary; a story that can easily captivate a whimsical mind, whether young or old.
Last year the title won William Grill the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for children’s illustration, becoming at the age of 25 the youngest winner in more than 50 years.
In a narrative complimented by his expressive illustrations, he has made a book that is fantastically accessible and perfect for that 5 – 10 year old child who is discovering the wilds and wonderings of adventure, and indeed the very ideas associated with what a hero can be, and the very nature of exploration.
I chose life over death for myself and my friends … I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be to not explore at all.
Through simple, yet informative illustrations he explains how the crew prepared for their expedition, and tells of how their excitement and trepidation, culminated in a desperate fight to survive in an environment that almost claimed their lives.
Grill has seemingly drawn upon the white background of the books pages as a means to somehow imitate the cold and desolate expanse of ice that is Antarctic; situating his naive depictions of Shackleton and crew often within vast tracts of white.
Perfect for children who are discovering the wilds and wonderings of adventure – and the idea of what a hero can be
What makes Grill’s telling of Shackleton’s journey especially engaging is the way that he’s incorporated charming and insightful facts about the diverse aspects of the journey, each one deftly illustrated; from the expeditions funding and recruitment of crew, the depiction of the building of the ship ‘Endurance’, to the dogs that helped crew the arduous journey, with names such as Hercules, Sailor. Snowball, Steamer and Wolf.
The book is full of “visual lists”, as Grill calls them – drawing all 69 of Shackleton’s dogs, for example, or the trees from which his ship Endurance was made, the carpentry tools used to craft it, or the equipment on board, from skis to provisions.
Such books may run the risk of somehow feeling dated – telling a one hundred year old story, and making it feel relevant and engaging to fresh young minds of today could feel tricky. But by telling Shackleton’s fascinating story, making it accessible through such a strikingly informative and illustrative approach, Grill manages to capture the tumult behind an enduringly dramatic story that will no doubt live on for many more generations to come.
Shackleton’s Journey, By William Grill, is available to buy from Flying Eye Books for £14.99