nonfiction nuggets…an arctic childhood

Snow Baby:  The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter, by Katherine Kirkpatrick

In 1893, in a small house tucked along the icy shores of Greenland, amidst the cold Arctic winds and frozen sunshine, a little baby girl was born named Marie Ahnighito Peary.  Her father was the famous Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary.  Her mother was an incredibly plucky woman named Josephine.  Marie inherited the pluck and courage of them both, as well as a highly unusual childhood.

Traveling back and forth between the barren snowscapes of Greenland and the high society life of Washington, D.C., Marie was as familiar with caribou skin bedding and Inuit stories as she was with German Christmas treats and Victorian dresses.  She loved her pet musk ox, her Inuit friends in their thick furs, and moonlit walks in the perpetual darkness of the Arctic winters; and she loved her German grandmother, her travels through Europe, and the Peary’s island home in Maine.

This book tells the story of her fascinating life — of harrowing adventures and ice-locked ships shared with dozens and dozens of sled dogs and massive glaciers looming out of icy waters and tea with the ship’s crew.   Her story is told clearly and it never bogs down.  At the same time, we learn quite a bit about the process Peary and his team went through in accomplishing the North Pole expedition, about the Inuit people who were indispensible to him, and about the Arctic land itself.

 The book (about 50 pages long and sized like a picture book) is filled with beautiful, black-and-white photographs and is laid out in a very aesthetically-pleasing way.  I’m guessing the intended audience is ages 9 and up, but I think it could be read to younger children who are curious enough and have attention spans that don’t require lots of colorful pictures.  I think adults will find this as fascinating as any of the children — I couldn’t put it down — so go ahead and just check it out for yourself!