TMW Book Reviews

Johnny and Jazzbo


Kathryn J. Hardy

It starts with a young white dentist joining the USS Glacier as it embarks on a perilous expedition to Antarctica. The ship sets sail, and he quickly adapts to life on board, forming fellowships while facing the challenges of life at sea. The journey was marked by rough waters, monotony, and camaraderie among the crew members. As they approached Antarctica, the crew’s spirits were lifted by the sight of emperor penguins and breathtaking landscapes. Entering the Ross Sea, the ship faces the daunting task of breaking through the ice to establish a path to a research outpost. He is then tasked with leading expeditions on land, even though he has little experience with cold-weather camping. In their forays, he recollected wars and violence and asked himself, “How is it that there can be so much violence in the world, and yet here, the most treacherous land on earth, twelve very controversial countries can find common ground?”

“Johnny and Jazzbo” by Kathryn J. Hardy is a literary gem that transports readers through friendship, resilience, and history. Hardy’s storytelling is impeccable in this true-life tale, capturing a unique bond between Johnny Savage and Otis Ikner.

The narrative traverses time and geography from the frozen landscapes to the heated challenges of the civil rights movement in Atlanta, Georgia. Hardy’s meticulous research shines through as she integrates historical figures and events, adding depth to a transformative era—including the civil rights movement, political shifts, and cultural revolutions.

She writes a story that keeps readers engaged from start to finish with a blend of adventure, camaraderie, and profound themes, such as racial equality, without losing the narrative’s buoyancy. Her attention to detail makes it easy to visualize the scenes as well—readers can practically feel the icy winds and hear the crushing sounds of the ship breaking through the thick layers of ice. Additionally, this book allows readers across generations not only to learn about history but experience it alongside the two men—feeling their laughter, tears, and triumphs as if they were right there beside them. During racial tension and change, their dynamic companionship embodies the power of the human spirit. “There is no guarantee how long we have on this earth. I want the waves I make to make a lasting difference in other people’s lives.” 

“Johnny and Jazzbo” is about friendship, love, and overcoming adversity. A literary achievement that brings history to life and leaves readers deeply moved. It is a reminder that anything is possible if you have the courage to follow your dreams.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024