Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Snow Baby: the Arctic childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary's Daring Daughter by Katherine Kirkpatrick

48 p. Holiday House Inc., February, 2007. 9780803419739. (Review from copy borrowed from public library)

The "Polar Vortex" about a week or so ago must have inspired the children's librarian at my local library to make a display of snow books. This one caught my eye. It looked brand-spanking new so imagine my surprise when I learned it was published in 2007! How did I miss this?

This whole "Polar Vortex" thing has me rolling my eyes. First, with the weather folks propensity for naming storms and weather systems. Come on! Secondly, by making a big deal about the plunging temperatures. It's winter! It's supposed to be cold. We have been spoiled by the mild winters we've been having here in the New York metropolitan area. The real winter toughies in the northern midwest earned the name, Polar Vortex, with their well below zero weather. We are winter wimps compared to them and compared to The Snow Baby.

Marie Ahnighito Peary, aka the Snow Baby, was born September 12, 1893 to Josephine and Admiral Robert Peary in Anniversary Lodge in the far north of Greenland. They lived among the Smith Sound Inuit, who called Marie the Snow Baby because of her blond hair and blue eyes. Josephine Peary was notable for breaking with Victorian tradition and not only accompanying her husband to live in such an inhospitable environment, but to subsequently give birth there. 

Marie thrived in the Polar environment but Admiral Peary sent his wife and eleven-month-old daughter home to Washington when the ship, the Falcon, arrived at the expected conclusion of his expedition. He failed to reach the North Pole and opted to stay and make further attempts. Peary was so intent on being the first to reach the North Pole, that he was mostly absent as Marie grew up. He returned home to raise funds for further expeditions.

Readers will learn as much about Admiral Peary as they will about his hearty daughter in this highly engaging biography. It focuses on Marie's childhood through her teens, when Peary finally claimed to have reached the Pole only to have Dr. Frederick Cook claim otherwise. 

Plenty of intriguing black and white photographs break up the text, an Afterword covers Marie's adult life in two pages. Source notes, a bibliography and an index conclude this attractive volume.

This is definitely a unique addition to the biography section and one I'll be purchasing for my middle school collection.

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