Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 01/01/2012 Captain Scott’s famous and doomed expedition to the South Pole in 1910-1913 has received all kinds of literary treatments from all kinds of perspectives; here, however, is a new one, the story of his journey from the viewpoint of James Pigg, one of the Russian ponies used by the expedition to carry loads along the route. Third-person accounts of the competing and victorious Norwegian Amundsen expedition and additional elements of Scott’s experience fill in the picture as the ponies meet Scott’s men, travel down to Antarctica, and experience the strange and difficult life there. The skilled hand of the veteran author turns this into a deeply poignant tale of ponies and men who met their ends in the frozen and unforgiving South. James Pigg has a childlike and humble view, responding with devotion to the kindness of the explorers, hoping to please his handler, and facing his fate mostly with sad acceptance. Without taking a stand for or against Scott’s use of ponies, Lawrence makes it intensely clear, in a way even classic accounts don’t manage to convey so vividly, just how dangerous, risky, and effortful every step of the journey was; the fondness of the pony-handling explorers for their charges is an understandable feeling of comradeship painfully complicated by foreknowledge of the ponies’ fate. The book changes a few factual details, but the point here isn’t exact historical fidelity but an heroic tragedy seen by one of its most unassuming participants. While the title and pony-faced cover may lead unwary horse lovers into heartbreak, it’s adventure-story buffs who will really appreciate this moving tale. A concluding note gives a little more background on the genesis of the story. DS - Copyright 2012 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2012 Gr 4–7—James Pigg is a white pony that died under horrific circumstances about 100 years ago as a member of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated race to the South Pole against explorer Roald Amundsen. Relaying the grim realities of the brutal expedition from the perspective of an animal demonstrates the author's genius. From his capture in the wilds to his brutal forced labor and subsequent purchase for the Scott expedition, Jimmy is a marvelous blend of humanlike awareness and a purely four-footed animal nature. As the adventure progresses, Jimmy posits a sort of pony heaven, develops a personal code of conduct, and even eavesdrops through tent walls as the leaders discuss expedition strategy. At the same time, the pony is often afraid, full of self-doubt, has a wickedly funny sense of irony, and is fully aware that he is but a tool to be abused in pursuit of humans' largely unfathomable goals. Through Jimmy's dedicated, obedient, and observant eyes, the horrific details of this tragically flawed expedition's failures are rendered all the way to its brutal and lamentable end. Nonetheless, the horrors he witnesses are gently muted, as through an icy fog, to a level appropriate for the intended audience. Brief facts about the Amundsen team's progress and other historical details are covered in occasional sections that are interspersed throughout the text, and in the author's note.—Joel Shoemaker, formerly at South East Junior High School, Iowa City, IA - Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.