Review of The Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic

The Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the AntarcticThe Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic
by Jennifer Thermes; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Viking    56 pp.
1/23    9780593117729    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780593117736    $11.99

The little-known subject of this enthralling picture-book biography, Tom Crean (1877–1938), first went to Antarctica as a last-minute replacement, signing on as an able seaman on Captain Scott’s initial voyage; then six years later as chief petty officer on Scott’s second, ill-fated expedition; and finally as second officer serving under Shackleton aboard the ­Endurance. Crean, while facing all the usual hardships and dangers, was undoubtedly brave and seemingly “indestructible.” On a solo rescue mission, he saved two men’s lives: “It is thirty-five miles across the ice shelf. The cold bites Tom to his core. He has only a few biscuits and a bar of chocolate to eat. He must keep going.” Most remarkable of all, he was one of the three men (including Shackleton) who crossed the mountains of South Georgia Island on foot, resulting in the fabled rescue of all twenty-eight stranded Endurance crewmembers. Thermes’s honed text, in a grabbingly immediate present tense, uses short, high-impact sentences that make the most of the inherent drama. Her illustrations (in watercolor, colored pencil, and salt) are full of detail, action, and atmosphere. Page layouts are an eye-catching, pace-setting mix of double-page spreads (in order, for example, to convey the majesty of the Antarctic landscape), full pages, and panels that progress the action and accommodate informative content such as maps. The glacial palette necessarily relies on blues and whites but is never boring, with pleasing additions of various pastel colors. Appended with ­Antarctica facts, an afterword, a timeline, and selected sources.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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