Monday, September 23, 2013

Alive in the Death Zone, by Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall, the famous Everest author and survivor, writes a narrative of his climbs for older children in Alive in the Death Zone. Hall ties in his climbing biography to an introduction to Mount Everest to create an exciting storyline that teaches. While he brings to life his climbs of gradually higher and more technical mountains (including features on his climbs on Dunagiri, Annapurna II, and his two climbs on Everest), he also relates some of the history of climbing Everest, the challenges of high-altitude mountaineering, and a bit of the cultural geography of the Everest region.

The largest part of the book focuses on his 2006 climb to the summit of Everest, his near-death experience below the Second Step on the Northeast Ridge, and his rescue and against-the-odds survival. He tells of the expedition in good detail for young readers, in a style that's easy to understand, but not dumbed-down. His focus is slightly different than his adult-readers' memoir of the event, Dead Lucky, with a more journalistic approach that describes many things that adults often take for granted, such as why a tent with a certain shape works better, or the utility of acclimatization. I appreciated his frank writing on his overnight ordeal and the results of his mortification. I found it curious, but perhaps appropriate, that he left out some of the more gruesome details of his troubled rescue.

I'm a huge fan of this book. Not only does it work an exciting story into the often tedious task of introducing Everest, but also it tantalizes with quality prose and images. The book is suffused with Hall's (and others') photography---often first-rate action shots or mountain landscapes, with some documentary photographs that bring the story to life. The format and printing are high-quality, and there's even a visual reference guide for the technical equipment he uses on his climbs. Finally! An Everest book for kids that has it all!

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