Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally M. Walker

66800289Lynn: I think in my next life I’d like to be Sally Walker.  First she’s a terrific writer, second she’s investigating the most fascinating subjects and meeting amazing people and third  she’s turned her curiosity into her work.  How cool is that?  Frozen Secrets:  Antarctica Revealed (Carolrhoda 2010) is the award-winning Walker’s latest book and it is outstanding.

A few years ago I did a lot of research on Antarctica for a committee I was on so I came to this book thinking I knew a lot about the subject and feeling a little smug.  That lasted about 4 pages as it quickly became clear that I had a lot to learn from this book.  Walker, as usual, is doing so much here.  This is not just a book about geology, or physics or climate change, a historical overlook or a book about the scientific process.  It is all those things and much more.  Walker brings a breath-taking clarity to really complicated subjects making them understandable  – and fascinating – to a novice.  Did you know there are liquid lakes under three miles of solid ice or that dinosaur bones have been found there?  Did you know that dog remains from Shackleton’s 1915 supply depot, perfectly preserved for almost 100 years, are now rotting?  Walker writes with an infectious enthusiasm for the subject that will captivate young readers and open their eyes to how important and complex this frozen continent is.

Add photographs that are stunning and informative, maps, a glossary,  an excellent bibliography and source notes and you have a dynamite package.  And then there’s my favorite section about eight middle school students who built a remote-control research vehicle, SCUBADooba Doo, that dived and performed successfully in McMurdo Sound.  Talk about authentic education!

Cindy: I’m not sure what Lynn has left me to talk about, so let’s start with this: Lynn believes in reincarnation? Who knew! This book definitely has her name all over it even if she has little chance of coming back as Sally Walker. Most of the nonfiction books that get award stickers on them are biography or history subjects and so I am always delighted to see really engaging science nonfiction for teens. This one excels in all the ways Lynn mentions above. I was heartened by the details of the Antarctic Treaty that call for sharing of research information among all nations, responsible treatment of the fragile and pure environment and ecosystems, and peaceful purpose use only. If it weren’t so darned cold, I’d be tempted to move there! The examples of signs of global warming are illuminating and the dangers frightening. I am grateful for the scientists working to learn what they can and sharing that knowledge with the rest of the world and for authors who bring this information to a young audience. And, I’m definitely with Lynn that the example of real-world learning for the group of 8th grade students is a model for other classes to follow. Find a way to connect with scientists working in the field, do some original problem solving and contribute to the process. That’s the kind of future leaders and workers we need, not ones who are good multiple choice test takers.

nonfiction_mondayThanks to Charlotte’s Library for hosting this week’s Nonfiction Monday roundup of blog posts.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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