Monday, November 7, 2016

Isaacs, Sally. Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure.

Isaacs, Sally.  Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure.  Capstone Publishers  2016  32p  $20.99  ISBN 978-1-4914-8044-1  elem/ms  Nonfiction  VG-BN

Sir Edmund Hillary spoke to New Zealander Helen Thayer’s class about his journey up Mount Everest, and Helen was hooked.  Thus began her adventurous path to ascend Mount McKinley, Aconcagua, Mount Cook, and other mountains.  As an avid sportswoman, she decided to live her Polar Dream, which previously had been just a thought that evolved into a goal, to walk around the magnetic North Pole.  Thankfully, a local bear hunter named Charlie convinced her of the dangers of polar bears, offering her one of his guard dogs.  As fate would have it, Charlie saved her life. The winds, the snow, the frigid temperatures, injury and loneliness: any one of these could demoralize Helen if she dropped her guard.  Even a poor decision would bring her demise.  One morning, with the ice just outside her tent cracked, she realized that a wrong decision about leaving at that moment might cause her to fall into a crevice to her death.  She waited. Waiting was the right choice. 

What Sally Isaacs has done, along with illustrator Iva Sasheva, is to bring a little-known story to young readers.  Isaacs uses a simple style that is exciting; she has the ability to bring a sense of danger to the forefront.  Sasheva illustrated the adventures; one of my favorites is a picture of the polar bear standing just feet from Thayer, and in a split second Helen must decide between making the kill and letting Charlie intervene. 

Readers of all ages will enjoy this dramatic telling. Books with themes of empowerment are important, and this is one of the better stories with this theme.  The book ends with a note written to readers by Thayer, a biographical page devoted to Thayer, another devoted to Charlie, and a glossary.  There are also three discussion questions that are tied to the common-core curriculum. 

Summary: New Zealand adventurer Helen Thayer decided to live her dream of walking around the magnetic North Pole.  Equipped with a guard dog as protection against polar bears, Thayer realized that she had quite a journey ahead.  This book is a study in fortitude and living one’s dream.

North Pole-Exploration-Biography, Helen Thayer        --Martha Squaresky

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