Sophie Scott goes south by Alison Lester

cover image

Penguin Viking, 2012. ISBN 978 0 670 88068 3.
(Ages 7+) Highly recommended. Antarctica. Alison Lester has again used her considerable skills to present a story about Antarctica, bringing in themes of conservation and environment, alongside a neatly told story of young Sophie, accompanying her father, the captain of the Aurora Australia, on a trip to Mawson Station. Here he will replenish supplies, pick up some scientists returning to Australia, and leave behind some staying for the winter.
In exquisite double page spreads, we see the ship getting ready for the voyage, text on the left hand side with drawings, paintings or photographs on the right. Each double page renders information about the trip in Sophie's nine year old voice, and the reader hears of the icebergs, the animals and birds, life aboard the ship and the dangers which may accrue on such an expedition. The balance of information is wonderful, enough to whet a child's interest, to inform, and make the student want to search for more, without the whole being overwhelming. I love the small snippets of information dotted around the page, the diary format of the tale, the arrangement of the photographs, drawings and information on each page, the beautiful array of photographs and paintings, all combining to give a wonderful presentation of the place Alison visited in 2005.
The text on the verso is broken up by drawings and bits of information. Drawings of an iceberg, for example, shows the reader just how much is below the water line, or a growler, an iceberg which is totally underwater, or photos of the different sorts of ice seen from the ship, and drawings of the clothes Sophie must wear to keep warm will fascinate all readers.
A class would have a great deal of fun with this book, not only reading it as a story, but using details in their units of work on conservation, environment or sustainability, using some of the ideas expressed by Alison Lester. I can well imagine kids using the paper cutout figures as Alison shows in the first few pages, or trying different artistic techniques shown by her in revealing different aspects of the voyage, or designing their own stamps. The possibilities are endless with this fabulous book, designed not just for kids, but all who pick it up, and retaining people's interest as they read it all over again.
Fran Knight