Nansen Critical Context - Essay

Anna Gertrude Hall

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

This biography cannot be compared with other books on Nansen for young people because there are few available. Although it was originally published in 1940, Hall’s Nansen, a 1941 Newbery Medal Honor Book, went into several reprintings, including one in 1957, indicating its popularity at one time. Today, it is out of print but still available in many libraries.

One aspect of the book that makes it dated is the fact that oceanography, nearly unknown in Nansen’s time, became popular among many young scientists after World War II. Furthermore, exploration has advanced far beyond Nansen’s dreams. In addition, regrettably, the work that wore Nansen out at the end of his life lasted only a short time before a second great war threatened to destroy whatever had been accomplished by the work of the League of Nations.

As a well-written biography of a lesser-known hero, however, Nansen deserves its place in the realm of biographies for young readers. It brings to the fore not only the life of an interesting Norwegian but also the essence of another era. Within the context of literature for young adults, this book has a place, although a small one. Its style is quite different from that of the popular young adult books and its subject matter is foreign both in time and place, but the text may inspire some young readers and lead them to search out books on related issues.