The Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic

by Jennifer Thermes (Author) Jennifer Thermes (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Antarctica is the last unexplored continent. The ice is unforgiving. It can break the human spirit. It takes many men willing to face hardship, danger, and years away from home to journey to this uncharted end of the earth. This is the story of one. His name is Tom Crean.

The Indestructible Tom Crean reveals the incredible true stories of Crean's adventures on the Discovery, Terra Nova, and Endurance expeditions. He hauls eight-hundred-pound sleds full of supplies, escapes from drifting ice floes, and trudges miles alone across a treacherous ice shelf. When the Endurance becomes trapped in the frozen sea and sinks, it is up to Crean and several others to go for help. They sail a tiny lifeboat through the most violent seas in the world and cross a daunting glacial mountain range by foot in order to save their fellow explorers. Tom Crean's heroic acts of courage, perseverance, and teamwork inspire the men to keep going.

Through dazzling mapwork and vivid illustrations, Jennifer Thermes brings a formidable landscape and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration to life.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

A story of bitter cold infused with warmth and with the fighting spirit of its courageous subject.


Starred Review
Thermes' past work as a map illustrator is employed to great effect here . . . Created with watercolor, colored pencil, and salt, the artwork features a soft, sunny palette that keeps the story upbeat, even during blizzards and perilous times. With varied compositions, this is a detail-rich presentation not to be missed.

Publishers Weekly

Antarctic explorer and seaman Tom Crean (1877-1938) overcomes icy challenges in this adventuresome picture book profile. Briefly referencing Crean's upbringing in Ireland, Thermes features three polar expeditions with chapter-like introductions that include voyage years, Crean's role, the journey goal, and a capsule map. Text jumps right into the frigid action with the subject's decision to join the Antarctica-bound ship Discovery, which becomes trapped in ice for two years. Fast-forward six years to the Terra Nova ("Goal: to be the first to reach the South Pole"), for which Crean's bravery in service of others wins him a medal. The drama continues at sea and on land during a final outing with Ernest Shackleton aboard the Endurance. Thermes provides a detailed narrative picture of the treks' hardships, including the death of ship animals ("Frozen hands and frostbit feet. Salt water, sloshing. Rotting reindeer-skin sleeping bags"), through watercolor, colored pencil, and salt illustrations that gentle with their pale delicacy. Back matter includes an afterword, timeline, sources, and more. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review
[E]nthralling . . . Thermes's honed text, in a grabbingly immediate present tense, uses short, high-impact sentences that make the most of the inherent drama. Her illustrations (in watercolor, colored pencil, and salt) are full of detail, action, and atmosphere.

Review quotes

Jennifer Thermes
Jennifer Thermes is the children's book author and illustrator of Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure and an accomplished map illustrator. She lives in Connecticut.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF007000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | General
JNF002000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Adventure & Adventurers
JNF025080 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Exploration & Discovery
Library of Congress categories
Discovery and exploration
Shackleton, Ernest Henry
Scott, Robert Falcon
Crean, Tom

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!