In the Kingdom of Ice, The Princess and Curdie, Luckiest Girl Alive

I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve always been a sucker for stories about people trying not to freeze to death. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Journey of the USS Jeannette was not only a suspenseful, exciting story, but it was exceptionally researched and suffused with narrative excellence.

In 1879, the USS Jeannette headed off to the North Pole, captained by the capable and ambitious George Washington De Long. Their goal was to reach the North Pole using a theoretical warm current that presumably flowed through the ice pack encircling the hypothetical Polar Sea, a body of water that was widely believed to be warm. It seems so ludicrous from our perspective, but author Hampton Sides does a masterful job in explaining how such theories came to be, from both scientific and cultural angles. Of course, there was no warm current, and an unplanned side trip meant that the ship became frozen in ice at the 70th parallel, immobilized for over a year and a half. And that’s only the first half of this tale of survival.

Despite their desperate circumstances, the men who struggled on board (and off) the Jeannette were resilient and then some. This is not a story about frozen people eating each other. The book is filled with hope and courage and people hitting bottom and finding a way to keep going. Sure, they may have had to cut gangrenous tissue off of each other’s toes, but I’d do that for any of one of you.

In homeschool coop, the middle schoolers and I finished The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald, the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin. Curdie is the brave miner’s son who was rescued by Irene and who joined her in saving the kingdom from the nefarious goblins. Now, he’s been set to his own task by Irene’s magical great great grandmother, and it will lead him into a place of greater enchantment than he found under the mountain. It’s such a wonderful story, and all of us were disappointed that he never wrote another story set in this world.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll comes out in May. I didn’t love it, even thought it has all the elements that draw me to a story. I felt like there were a lot of moments where the narrative made assumptions that I wasn’t necessarily following, and the big reveal left me cold.

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