The name John Muir usually brings to mind giant redwood trees and the Sierra Club. Did you know he also thrived on trekking across glaciers in Alaska? This story recounts one harrowing adventure when Muir and a small terrier named Stickeen were climbing over and around, up and down a glacier trying to get back to the safety of their camp before dark. You can feel the cold-"Mountain streams crash upon the boulders. Trees bend in the wind...John enjoys nature's fierce weather." And you can see the cold in the dramatically detailed illustrations, all in shades of gray and brown and steel-blue ice. It's as if you could touch the frost on each hair of Stickeen's chin or Muir's beard. Muir uses a pick ax to chop steps in a sheer cliff of ice: "He must not slip. He is only inches away from death." Near the end, dog and man must cross a narrow ice bridge. "Stickeen wails. But does not cross." Finally, there is the warm red glow of the campfire-a sharp contrast to the page after page of ice and frigid air. This is a tense and dramatic story with exquisite illustrations. It would be a perfect classroom read-aloud for many age groups as well as an exciting book for individual browsing. 2003, Millbrook, Ages 4 up.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Muir wrote about exploring an Alaskan glacier in the company of a friend's dog, Stickeen, in what is said to be the naturalist's favorite adventure. Koehler-Pentacoff recounts the story in the present tense: "Mountain streams crash upon boulders. Trees bend in the wind. John loves the excitement. He enjoys nature's fierce weather." This is the extent of what readers learn about Muir and his motivation for climbing the glacier in a stormy, treacherous situation. A whole day spent struggling across the ice and over crevasses culminates in the near loss of Stickeen as the plucky dog succumbs to fear at crossing a narrow ice bridge back to the mainland. The short, simple sentences fall into a choppy rhythm, occasionally capturing the drama of man's struggle against nature. Swanson's muted acrylic and colored-pencil illustrations accompany the terse account, placing man and dog in an indistinct, bluish-mauve setting that suggests the harsh terrain and weather but is also rather abstract. In the sketchy telling, it's hard to imagine why a seasoned outdoorsman would be so ill prepared for such an extreme outing-he carries his trusty ax but has no rope or food (beyond the bread they share for breakfast). An endnote adds some information on Muir's life and contributions to wilderness preservation. While some children may enjoy the tale of this brave little dog, the book is not smoothly executed and has limited appeal.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A dramatic retelling of an episode from renowned naturalist Muir's memoirs, set to equally dramatic, if somewhat jumbled illustrations. Having set off one morning to explore a glacier with only a hatchet, a compass, and, for companionship, an intrepid terrier named Stickeen, Muir spends an exhilarating day, enduring freezing winds and treacherous ice, leaping ever-wider crevasses, and finally having to scramble across a narrow ice bridge to get back to camp--with Stickeen matching him feat for feat. Muir later dubbed it his favorite adventure ever. Swanson matches the tale's melodramatic language--"With every step they face danger. With every step they face death. Freezing. Hungry. Wet"-- with scenes of the lightly dressed, rugged-looking explorer and his diminutive canine shadow picking their way across indistinct, oddly twisted crystalline formations that fail to illustrate the action. Still, this makes an engrossing survival tale, and provides unusual insight into Muir's character. (afterword) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)