Shackleton’s Journey Told in Pictures

Shackleton’s Journey, by William Grill, (Flying Eye Books), 68 pages, released 2014

William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey has been out for over a year and garnered many awards, so my review is rather late, but I wanted to join my voice to those already praising this title. Shackleton’s Journey is a marvelous creature: a picture book stuffed with data and details, the sorts of things hopeful future explorers can pore through again and again.

Gill shows young readers the many stages of Shackleton’s journey, beginning with fundraising and recruitment, moving on to the exploration party’s hardships during months trapped in the ice of the Antarctic, and ending with their final rescue and return home. Remarkably enough, not a single man died during the course of the exploration.

Grill’s pages are bright and dense. The two-page spread on the crew offers individual portraits of each of the twenty-eight men involved (including one stowaway!). We learn the names of all 69 dogs taken on the expedition. We can study the provisions that were packed in the hold. And all this before the expedition actually sets out. Once the men are on the ice, we see cut-away views of the ship’s interior and the alternate shelters they built when the ship was lost. Somehow, Grill manages to capture the desolation of the vast, white antarctic landscape within the book’s nine by twelve inch pages.

This is the sort of book that can offer hours of engagement, for a child and an adult in conversation or for a child perusing the book on her own. It will take dozens of readings before everything in this book is seen—and, even then, new details may stand out with each new voyage through Grill’s beautiful book.