A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic

By Yi Shun Lai
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2024

326 pages

Cover of A Suffragist's Guide to the Antarctic
A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic by Yi Shun Lai


Age 13 and older

In 1914, 18-year-old Clara Ketterling-Dunbar (white) is the only female (and American) member of a crew of 28 on board the British ship Resolute when it sinks in Antarctic waters, leaving everyone alive but stranded on ice floes. A staunch women’s suffragist, Clara was involved with the Women’s Social and Political Union in London before she grew frustrated with their decision to halt their suffrage efforts to focus on wartime contributions. Clara is determined to prove both herself and women as a whole on this ambitious expedition—based on that of Sir Ernest Shackleton and crew—to cross the Antarctic, but she is routinely underestimated, even scorned, by crewmates who believe she can do little more than cook and trim hair. As the crew bide their time in tents, waiting for a passage to open up in the ice, Clara records her experiences in her notebook, hoping it will serve as a guide for future women explorers. She describes her crewmates as both individuals and archetypes: Among others, there are the Boss, whose leadership must be trusted if they are to survive; the Cook, who treats Clara with gruff kindness; Timothy, her friend; and the Villain, a man named Hotchkiss, who causes a perilous rift in the crew when he assaults Clara. In a desolate and unforgiving environment, Clara stubbornly proves herself again and again, battling for her own and her crew’s survival in an engrossing story that balances action and adventure with introspection and observations of group dynamics. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center