Along with the rest of our country, my city has experienced the tumble of heat records this year. 101 has come to visit and stayed longer than we’d like. When reading Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, my thirst became so great, I wanted to get a drink of water, but that would mean a break in reading. I couldn’t stop. Not for a minute. I wondered, was there ever a book that made me feel cold. Numb, even? I offer the following as my attempt to bring down the temperatures. Have a sweater handy.
THE WHITE DARKNESS by Geraldine McCaughrean, HarperTempest, 2005
14 year old Symone’s confidante is Captain Titus Oates who was aboard a doomed expedition to the South Pole–-90 years ago. As Sym puts it, “I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now–-which is ridiculous, since he’s been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way, in ninety years I’ll be dead, too, and the age difference won’t matter.”
That’s the thing about Sym. She has her own way of looking at things. Good thing. It saves her sanity when her Uncle Victor, obsessed with seeking Symme’s Hole, an opening that may lead to the center of the Earth, takes her on an adventure in the bleak, unyielding, unrelenting Antarctic wilderness. The entire undertaking becomes a nightmare. Is it cold? Try freezing.
The author thoughtfully provides a brief account of the doomed expedition of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who set out for the South Pole in 1911, a second and final attempt. For Titus Oates, given charge of Captain Scott’s horses, this contemporary novel could grant him a second chance to set a few things straight.
The White Darkness was singled out for the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature by the American Library Association. Author McCaughrean has won many other awards for her lengthy list of credits, including the Carnegie Medal, England’s most prestigious children’s book award, and the Whitbread Children’s Book Award. She was the first to win the latter award three times.
Reviews on the back cover are, of course, favorable. They wouldn’t be there otherwise. However, The Guardian (UK) spoke for me: “A rip-roaring adventure yarn...with any luck it’ll be read by everyone, whatever their age. No one’s going to forget it in a hurry.”