How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy

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Nobrow, 2016. ISBN 9781910620069
Themes: Arctic exploration, survival, Inuit/Eskimo women, resilience. This graphic novel interleaves three stories, two based on factual accounts of expeditions to the arctic and one contemporary fictional thread about a disgraced academic who happens to find the arctic accounts in the university archives. All three are about poor decision making, endurance and survival by taking control and making the best of a bad situation. The book opens at the lowest point of each storyline, differentiated by colours which help the reader throughout the book. The two arctic exploration accounts are linked by Wrangel Island somewhere between Canada and Russia (a map would have been informative). The first captained by Bob Bartlett who heroically trekked over the ice to Russia to get help when their ship was crushed and the crew marooned on the island. The second expedition 7 years later was to claim the island for Canada. Again the group was trapped on the island and the Inuit seamstress, Blackjack, was left to look after an injured member of the party (who later died) while the others went to get help. Her story makes this worthwhile reading, with only a cat for company she endures extreme hardship, teaching herself to use a gun to hunt for food, resilient even though she has no idea if anyone knows she is there. The account of the first expedition was less well articulated and the fictional thread has the complication of the academic being disciplined for having had a homosexual relationship with a student, not something a young reader may understand. Older students might find some life messages in these flawed characters and the book is interesting for its graphic design and accessible illustration style.
Sue Speck