Monday, February 20, 2012

INTO THE UNKNOWN by Stewart Ross

Ross, Stewart. Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. Illus. by Stephen Biesty. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4948-7. $19.99. Ages 8-12.

In my education classes, I was taught that boys need hands-on learning. I was also taught that they tend to choose non-fiction over fiction. Into the Unknown meets both needs. The text is well written, with a good mix of history, science, and storytelling. The pages have detailed diagrams, maps, and pictures, which focus on things like ship construction, supply loading, and route mapping. The pop-outs make the narrative a 3D experience.

The sequence includes not only commonly known explorers like Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and Marco Polo, but also lesser known adventurers like Mary Kingsley, who explored the West Coast of Africa solo, Edmund Hillary, who first peaked Mount Everest, and Umberto Nobile, who flew over the North Pole. Ross begins his chronicling with Pytheas, a classical Greek explorer who navigated the Arctic waters as early as 340bc, and finishes with Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

The book’s dust jacket unfolds to reveal a giant world map poster, perfect for hanging in a bedroom and imagining one’s own adventures. The map, which shows all the continents, lists the explorers, and draws out their routes, is a bit plain, but a fun surprise nonetheless. The book also contains a glossary of exploration and navigation jargon, and an index.

Marisa Behan

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