'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Review: Into the Unknown

WOW! I knew I’d love this book. There’s nary a book I pinpoint and don’t enjoy but I just love it when a book blows even your highest expectations out of the water.

Humans have a natural inclination to explore, and none more so than children. As fact is always far stranger and more dramatic than fiction, what better way to entrance children with voyages into the unknown, than opening the pages of history?

This extraordinary book by Stewart Ross features a striking dust jacket that actually unfolds into a map showcasing the voyages of 14 incredible explorers, from Pytheas the Greek (340BC) to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and their voyage to the moon.

Upon removing the dust jacket, the publishers have most happily not neglected the cover of this book – jacket-less, it’s just as attractive. Then there’s inside.

Inside you'll find plenty of wonder. Beginning with Pytheas and his journey from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, readers are treated to an abridged history of the voyage, which is dotted with beautiful illustrations showcasing maps, boat types, and a wonderful flip out showing how a Currach (a type of boat) was put together.

In Leif Eriksson’s journey west from Greenland to the shores of America in 1003, we learn about early navigational tools, a shipwright’s tools and how the Vikings built the knarr, the most shipworthy craft of its generation.

But the greatest voyages were not only across the oceans. In 1271-74, Marco Polo traversed the infamous Silk Road from China to the Middle East. In this chapter’s flip out, we pay witness to an extraordinary illustration showcasing a caravanserai – a secure, walled lodging for travellers, almost like a miniature city.

From Zheng He’s 15th century travels from China with his treasure fleet through David Livingstone’s treacherous navigation of African’s Zambezi River to Edmund Hillary’s scaling of Mt Everest in 1953, this extraordinary and beautiful book is a treasure trove of exploration that will entrance adults as much as children. Illustrations by Stephen Biesty are truly magnificent.

Part information book, part adventure, part art gallery, part inspirational tome, this is an unforgettable book. Complete with Index, Glossary and source notes, Into the Unknown is a teacher’s dream. And a future explorer's priceless handbook.

Title: Into the Unknown
Author: Stewart Ross
Illustrator: Stephen Biesty
Publisher: Walker Books, $39.95
Publication Date: 1 March 2011
ISBN: 9781406304794
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
For ages: 8+
Type: Non-Fiction