Monday, May 28, 2012

To the Top of Everest, by Skreslet & MacLeod

Laurie Skreslet and Elizabeth MacLeod tell the edited tale of the 1982 Canadian Everest Expedition in To the Top of Everest. The climb is a difficult narrative, with four deaths, in-fighting before and during the climb, and another expedition mixed in with their climbers (see Burgess and Palmer's Everest Canada or Patterson's Canadians on Everest for additional details). Considering, I think the authors do a fairly good job of whittling out a story worth telling to young readers. Though the book tells of the expedition, it focuses on the life and climb of Skreslet, the first Canadian to climb Mount Everest. It's an unlikely adventure, as by all measures the expedition should have imploded, Skreslet takes a damaging fall, and he runs down for an x-ray while his teammates return to the mountain.

Though I'm happy the authors leave out the soap opera from Skreslet's narrative, I'm troubled by the very real presence of death. It's jarring to see the body of Pasang Sona being evacuated from the Khumbu Icefall in a children's book, as well as reading the detail about moving Blair Griffiths against orders because his body was so visible. On summit day, Sungdare, climbing with Skreslet, must face the corpse of Hannelore Schmatz, with whom he bivouaced and attempted to rescue in 1979. I don't know what I would do differently with the story, but I worry that this book might not be appropriate for all children. At least it's honest with the physical dangers climbers face! This book has piqued my interest in Skreslet's 1986 Everest expedition, in which Sharon Wood becomes the first woman from the Western Hemisphere to climb the world's highest mountain. I'll have to investigate!

This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier entry, which can be found here.

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