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'Snow Baby'

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[January 16, 2008]  "The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary's Daring Daughter," by Katherine Kirkpatrick, Holiday House, 2007, 50 pages, ages 9 and up

Review by
Louella Moreland

Robert E. Peary was a determined man. He spent over 23 years of his life struggling to reach the North Pole. Through his many attempts and failures, he developed an understanding of the Far North that probably astounded the people of the United States and Europe. There is also more to the story of Cmdr. Peary's adventures to the Arctic: the amazing and lasting impressions the region left on his daughter, Marie, who was born in this vast, bitterly cold place.

Marie Ahnighito Peary was dubbed the "Snow Baby" by Inuit living near the Peary base camp, Anniversary Lodge, in the north of Greenland. With blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin, Marie was certainly an unusual sight for the dark-haired natives of the region. They wondered if she had been created from the snow rather than being a human baby. They called her "Ah-poo Mickaninny" (Snow Baby), a name that stuck to Marie the rest of her life.

Little Marie had a very different life than most young ladies of the late 1800s. Born to a Navy adventurer and a refined, educated woman from Washington, D.C., her early years were spent divided between her grandmother's home in Washington and the frozen waters of the Arctic. She often described her childhood as a life of "sudden contrasts andů constant change."

Her two worlds were quite different. In Washington, D.C., and later on Eagle Island, she dressed in long skirts, lived in a house on a street in the city with all its noise and excitement, and attended school. In Greenland, she dressed in furs and skins, lived in a base camp echoing with strong, cold winds and the howls of the sled dogs, was tutored by her mother, and played on the ice. One winter, she and her mother were icebound on a ship when the captain could not escape the ice before the long winter descended.

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Marie grew up learning the harsh realities of the northern wilderness, the months of continued daylight and the long months of utter darkness and cold. She knew a life of freedom and independence that few young ladies of her time ever encountered. And she loved the adventuring father that she saw so rarely, taking an active role as his secretary as she grew older.

Katherine Kirkpatrick has done a great job of bringing the story to a level that is understood by this age group. Sections are well-organized with child-interesting details and photographs.

Although the book does acknowledge the "second family" Robert Peary had in the North, the hard lives and the deaths that occurred, it does not dwell on the subjects. Instead, this is a look at the positive influence that Marie experienced due to her father's obsession to be the first white man to reach the North Pole.

A bibliography, index, source notes and picture credits are all included at the end of the book for those students doing research, but the true strength of the book is its readability as a story.

To check out this book or others about the polar regions and the nature that abounds there, come visit us at the library, 725 Pekin St. Then curl up somewhere warm with a hot drink while you voyage the cozy way to the frozen waters of our planet.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District]

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