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The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish


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About the Author

Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley, winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal, and The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish, an ALA Notable Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, Riverbank Review Finalist, Notable Social Studies Trade book and winner of The Golden Kite Award for Illustration. She grew up on a farm in Maine much like the one in this story. She lives in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.


Gr 1-6-Martin has attempted a difficult task-to tell children the story of the last voyage of the Karluk. The tale, told several times before by survivors of the Expedition, is by all accounts a dramatic one. The Karluk, a past-its-prime, wooden Aleutian fishing vessel, was appropriated by Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who wanted to prove his theory that a continent underlay the Arctic ice cap. When the ship became icebound, he left the crew and a small I-upiaq contingent to fend for themselves. From there the Karluk drifted, was trapped fast in the ice, and then sank. Thanks to the skills of hunters Kataktovik and Kurraluk and skin sewer Qiruk (wife of Kurraluk), 14 of the party survived an ordeal that spanned 14 months. Briggs's poetic retelling focuses on the I-upiaq family, particularly Kurraluk and Qiruk's two young daughters. Evocative scratchboard illustrations show many details of the cultural and physical environment that cannot be detailed in the text. Black-and-white photos of the survivors will remind readers that this fantastic story is not just a yarn. The text may be too long to read aloud in one sitting to younger children, but there is no doubt that listeners will want to hear the whole story.-Sue Sherif, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, AK Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The author merges fact and conjecture with mixed results in this dense account of the 1913 expedition of a ship named the Karluk (the Aleutian word for "fish"). The vessel sailed north from British Columbia toward the Arctic Circle and stopped at Alaska's Point Barrow to pick up an I¤upiaq family. The expedition's mission, "to study the plants and people in the high north," takes a backseat when the Karluk becomes locked in ice and eventually sinksÄsurvival becomes the crew's goal. Unlike Snow Bentley, in which Martin neatly balanced the historical framework with telling anecdotes, here details of the expedition outweigh the human storyÄdespite some interesting facts (e.g., "Qiruk, the mother, could look at a man,/ cut a fur skin with her round-bladed ulu, and sew a pair of pants/ that would fit him exactly"). Though the author guesses about how various family members feel while awaiting rescue (she writes about one daughter, "Maybe she looked into the seal oil lamp and heard/ her grandmother singing the song of home./ And she did not feel so lonely"), Martin does not speculate about why the I¤upiaq family leaves their grandmother and their home to travel by sea with strangers. Despite scattered moments of suspense and Krommes's (Grandmother Winter) engaging, earth-toned scratchboard art, youngsters are apt to find this journey laborious and slow moving. Ages 6-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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