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I Am Canada: Graves of Ice: The Lost Franklin Expedition by J. Wilson

Wilson, John. I Am Canada: Graves of Ice: The Lost Franklin Expedition. Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014. Print.

Graves of Ice is the most recent title of I Am Canada, a series of historical fiction aimed at 9-12 year old boys and a companion to the very popular and award winning Dear Canada series for girls of the same age. The series, which sets a fictional child or youth within a significant Canadian historical event or period, is designed to inspire “adventure, duty, danger, fear” and it certainly succeeds with its exciting, first person vantage and journalistic style.

In Graves of Ice, young George Chambers, approximately 14-years-old, leads a simple but comfortable life with his brothers and sisters in Woolwich, England.  His father, a former Royal Navy seaman, enthralls the Chambers boys with tales of high seas battles while in service which in turn plants a seed of adventure in the impressionable George. Succeeding in having his father call in a favour earned while in the service of Sir John Franklin, George sets off as a cabin boy on a voyage of Arctic exploration led by Franklin that departed England in 1845.

This volume starts with George recounting the story of how things came to be with only two remaining survivors: George and Commander James Fitzjames. As George becomes weaker, his past and present merging, he recalls the events and moments that led to this– including a run in with a polar bear, possible mutiny, loneliness, frostbite, sickness and his own uncertain fate on what we now know was a doomed expedition.

Author John Wilson, author of other titles in the I Am Canada series, has 40+ titles to his name for kids and adults alike and has produced an exciting and well-researched tale with just the right amount of drama that will hold the reader’s attention. Adults will find themselves reading it in one sitting while younger readers will want just one more chapter. The only quibble I had is with the choice of some of the language of the younger characters, which was perhaps historically accurate but seemed too formal for an adolescent and which may seem unrealistic for today’s reader. Younger readers may also need a bit of help with some of the vocabulary, but the high action and excellent writing makes up for these small details. The companion web site includes a discussion guide as well as activities suitable for classroom use.

Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Debbie Feisst

Debbie is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta.  When not renovating, she enjoys travel, fitness and young adult fiction.