BOUND BY ICE: A True North Pole Survival Story


Bookends is thrilled to participate in our first blog tour. At the end of this post, find details about the rest of the stops on the tour!



Cindy: If you thought Shackleton’s three months trapped in the ice in the Antarctic was a gripping survival story, wait until you hear about George Washington De Long’s two years of tragedy and disaster exploring the Arctic on a doomed mission. Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story (2017) by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace will chill you to your bones.

The tale starts in June of 1881, as the Jeannette finally sinks through the ice that has held it fast and trapped its 33 crew members for over 20 months. Twenty months! Their only chance of survival is a 500-mile trek over unstable ice and frozen terrain to a sparsely populated Siberia. Only 12 would survive the ordeal.

Informed by De Long’s carefully saved, handwritten journals, surviving crew members’ accounts, and other primary sources, the Wallaces bring this group of explorers and their trials to life. Teen readers won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough to see what disaster awaits next. Some of the men were driven by a thirst for knowledge, others for adventure. They achieved both—perhaps even more knowledge than they understood at the time—and assuredly, more adventure than they wanted. In the epilogue, readers learn just how valuable a 45-pound load of journals proved to climatologists today (in addition to authors). Even failure can provide success.

Lynn: I’m not a huge fan of disaster stories, but Cindy insisted I read this one. And she was right, of course. What a terrific job the Wallaces have done with this account! It is no mean feat to write about historical events and keep the reader on the edge of their ice floe—I mean chair. Their use of primary sources is masterful and brings such an immediacy to the tale that I felt as though I truly knew these explorers, often because of small, wonderfully chosen details. De Long’s determined preservation of his journals right up to the moment of his death was astonishing, as was the discovery of a doll intended for his daughter, carefully wrapped in his pocket. A photograph of the actual glasses and other items is incredibly affecting.

This is a terrific feat of book design, too. Plenty of white space, fascinating illustrative materials, and font decisions make the book extremely attractive and inviting. An extensive bibliography and careful source notes complete this outstanding book. I read it as a galley and am eager to see the finished copy.


More Stops on the Bound by Ice Blog Tour. (Check out what other blogs say about the Wallaces’ book!)

Sunday, 9/17
Nerdy Book Club

Monday, 9/18
Mrs. Yingling Reads

Tuesday, 9/19
The Booklist Reader

Wednesday, 9/20
KidLit Frenzy

Thursday, 9/21
Dr. Bickmore’s YA Wednesday

Friday, 9/22
The Nonfiction Detectives




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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