Journey Under the Arctic

S.&S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. (Fabien Cousteau Expeditions). Mar. 2020. 112p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781534420908.
Gr 5-7–Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques-Yves, crafts a story in which he leads a fictional crew of researchers including two enthusiastic young “Junior Expeditioners” into the Chukchi Sea and then beneath it in a submersible—meeting a teeming variety of local wildlife from whales and polar bears to eerie ice worms. In search of the dumbo octopus (variously described as both “rare” and “common”), Fabian and the team come across a camp where elder Inuits are teaching young people the old ways: living in igloos, relying on dog sleds, and hunting fish. The decision to depict Inuit people not as modern but as rooted in the past falls flat, as does a scene where an Inuit elder recalls a dream about the octopus, which relies heavily on antiquated stereotypes of Indigneous people. Elsewhere, the pejorative term Eskimo is used without explanation or context. The promise of a rousing flashback at the outset to a 1775 encounter with a derelict ship crewed by frozen mummies is never quite fulfilled. The ensuing modern expedition struggles to maintain headway through heavy waves of informational slush that often threaten to overwhelm the smiling, muffled figures that St. Pierre shoehorns in static poses into his small, garishly colored panels. Amid all the mini-lectures, readers will have to learn elsewhere what a “water column” is, and that the scientific name for walrus, Odobenus rosmarus, translates as “tooth walking sea horse,” not just “tooth walker.” Moreover, in one picture, labels for “port” and “starboard” are confusingly placed on their opposite sides, and in another image the tentacles of a lion’s mane jellyfish are green while the text describes them as red and yellow.
VERDICT A huge amount of information is provided about rarely visited habitats, but it is presented in such a didactic, stereotypical, and slapdash way that middle grade readers are likely to come away confused and/or offended.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing