Friday, June 13, 2014

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

I've been meaning to read this book for ages. I first heard of it back in 2006, when my roommate Becca was taking Children's Literature. (Long story short: I ended up reading Lincoln: a Photobiography and Children of the Dust Bowl, instead, and I recommend them both.) Then in 2011 my best friend Ashley moved away and couldn't take all of her books along, so she gave me Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, with the admonition that I HAD to read it. It has only taken me this long. :)

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

Aaanyway. This is an amazing, unforgettable story. Polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out  in the Endurance, hoping to use dog-sled teams to be the first to cross Antarctica over land.  They left in 1914 -- before reliable radio (or any other long-distance communication) was available to them. Tragically, the ice was so thick that summer in the antarctic that they couldn't even make it to land. Not only were they trapped in ice for an incredibly long time, but then they had to abandon ship, and, like, do tons of other amazing and scary stuff that is too amazing and scary to be described in simple terms here. But here's the kicker (and I can tell you this because it's on page 1 of the book): they all survived. It's nuts!

I was hooked on this book from about page 10. Once the voyage was underway, I was invested. It was definitely one of those nail-biting, "I have to finish this ASAP!" books, and I accidentally told Jacob all about it while we were driving him to work.

Not only is the writing great, but there are pictures. Like, actual, from-the-voyage pictures. A photographer accompanied the explorers, and he was a good photographer. The photos are black and white, of course, and just breathtaking. It hurts my heart a little bit right now to remember the part where the photographer had to go in and choose which photos he was going to keep and which he would smash to pieces. Packing light had become paramount, and he didn't trust himself to leave the plates behind if they were intact.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of survival stories -- but not just those. It's also really good writing and a really engrossing story. When I tried to read it aloud to the boys (ages 5 and 3) it couldn't hold their interest. (I'm putting that down to high vocabulary level and complex sentence structures.) But, when I was done explaining the book to Jacob in the car, Benjamin said, "I guess that book does sound good." I don't even know what younger-age limit to put on this book. 8? 10? Whatever. Adults can enjoy it easily and not feel like the story has been watered down at all.

I'm glad I own this one -- I had a feeling I should move it across the country with me! It's nice to have it in what I call "the permanent collection." Have you read it? Does it sound good to you?

If you'd like to buy this book from Barnes & Noble, click the image above.
If you make a purchase through this link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. :)

Bonus baby penguins!


  1. Sounds interesting. I was wondering if Joy would like it. She is really into fiction, but showing her some good non-fiction writing might help her own writing. Is that permanent collection for lending? =)

    1. Yes, the permanent collection is the one we lend out of. :D The non-permanent collection gets sold at yard sales and given away.

  2. The vocabulary was a bit tough for my middle grade kids. But they really were in to it as long as I could explain it as we went along.

    1. Good to know, Linda! Yeah, the vocabulary of the book is expansive.

  3. And just for the record, I had two copies. :) That's why I was willing to part with one. This is a definite keeper in my home library! I'm so glad you read it!! Now I've got to dive into the Phantom Tollbooth ...

    1. Oh I forgot that tidbit! Thank you, Ashley. Thank you for giving me this amazing book and for patiently waiting for me to read it. :D


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