Ever since being drawn in by the opening scenes of Frankenstein with the icebound ship, this kind of bleak setting and desperate narrative has been something I enjoy in books. I was dragged on enough winter camps as a scout in the 80s to know that I would absolutely hate it. Butterfield Canyon in the Oquirrhs, 1982, was the worst--we couldn't even nail down the corners of the tents because the snow was so deep, and everyone just stayed up all night with their feet up to the fire. In the morning the soles were melted off most everyone's boots, and we still had another night tho go. But in the abstract being stranded in the arctic is interesting.
I had to do a little research to see what this genre is called: Narrative History is the genre tag that seemed most right. The story is assembled as a story, while trying to stay faithful to the historical facts. This is the traditional version of narrative history, staying chronological.
The graphic design choices are beautiful, making this more like a coffee table book than a picture book or a plain paperback narrative history. Each page is well designed and the photos and drawings are spread throughout the book instead of being chuffed into a center section of plates like we see in this type of history in paperback history for adults. Surprisingly, no graphic design credit! Candlewick had some great folks working on this to make it a gorgeous experience and a great book for the aesthetics of book handling. C'mon Candlewick--credit them even if they're on staff.
Sources are phenomenal, stretching to 28 pages: a 'what happened to each character' section comes first; a timeline; chapter by chapter quote sources; bibliography; photo credits; and index. There is actually a handful of primary sources in the bib, including William McKinley's address to congress, and references to the New Bedford Whaling Museum's artifacts and records (which I used in my whaling projects on bowheads over the past 10 years). Photo credits also lead back to New Bedford, and they have a phenomenal web site. So, a small number of very nice leads out to inquiry and research.
What differentiates this book from what you could learn on the internet? The completeness of the story. All of it in one place, and in careful detail and humanized. The best theme starts out at the very beginning, where the crews and captains of the stranded ships had no concept of disciplining themselves for survival as a group for a whole arctic winter.