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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 7 to 10.
This chapter book, appropriate for second and third grade readers, tells the story of the two great rivals in the race to reach the South Pole. Norwegian Amundsen, experienced both in skiing and in the use of sled dogs, triumphed on December 13, 1911. Englishman Scott, who relied instead on gasoline-powered sleds and ponies, reached the pole on January 17, 1912, only to find Amundsen's tent and flag awaiting him. Weak, starving, freezing, and heartbroken, Scott's party never returned, perishing in the snow. Thompson is a capable narrator, though the text is occasionally a bit flat. "Scott and his team were disappointed" to find that Amundsen had beat them to the pole is certainly a cruel understatement. The ending, however, is lovely, a brief portrait of Antarctica today: "Antarctica is the only continent that is not a nation or made up of a group of nations. Roald Amundsen may have been there first, but today the South Pole belongs to the world." As one would expect from a National Geographic publication, the illustrations are superb, from endpapers picturing an ice shelf in the spring twilight, to fascinating historical photographs of the two expeditions, to a closing scene of contemporary tourists admiring thousands of penguins. Includes glossary, suggestions for further reading (books and web sites), index, and suggestions about "How to Write an A+ Report." Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.