May 23, 2008

Icebound Summer

by Sally Carrighar

I was a little disappointed with this book, but I think that's just because for some reason I had the expectation that it would be like the previous Carrighar books I've read. Icebound Summer describes one season in the arctic, each chapter (which leads into the next one but doesn't necessarily overlap) focused on a particular animal. The vast, frozen landscape is a prominent feature against which seals, foxes, lemmings, whales, loons, terns, plover, walrus and men make their living. Other animals are secondary characters: gulls, orcas, caribou. Whereas in her previous books I felt like I was inside the mind of the animal, with this one I was more just an observer. My favorite chapter is one titled "The Brave Fawns" which features an illustration of a young caribou on the first page. I was expecting to read about the arctic deer, but instead it told of two Eskimo children who were left in camp while their parents went hunting. When the adults failed to return, the children were forced to attempt survival on their own.

I happen to really like the first cover featured here, but my old, rather worn copy actually looks like the one at left. I would give it a new face, except that the jacket flyleaf presents information I appreciated about the author, particularly that she spent several years in Alaska observing wildlife, accompanying Eskimos on seal and whale hunts, and traveling "more than four thousand miles in search of lemmings, for she felt that no book about arctic wildlife would be complete without authentic details concerning those legendary rodents." That helped stem my incredulity when I read her account of lemmings plunging into the sea, or a walrus that killed and ate seals. I looked it up: these things really do happen as she described. I never would have known.

Rating: 3/5                 262 pages, 1953

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