I find travelogues fascinating. If done well, you get a taste of a foreign land, what the people are like, exotic landscapes with a few good stories about trials, tribulations and perhaps near misses, thrown in to enthrall us. Nothing like armchair travel to whet the appetite for the real thing -- maybe.
Into the Unknown: how great explorers found their way by land, sea, and air by Stewart Ross, illustrated by Stephen Biesty (910.9 RoI 2011) is a captivating read (though I can’t say these stories made me want to join many of the expeditions – great to read about but I’m willing to let others forge the way).
We are given brief glimpses into fourteen journeys, spanning from the Greeks in 340 BC sailing to the Arctic until 1969 with two Americans landing on the moon. Many of the explorers like Marco Polo, Captain James Cook, Christopher Columbus, and Edmund Hillary are well known. But also included are lesser known Mary Kingsley, the father and son team Auguste and Jacques Piccard, Admiral Zheng and Pytheas. Whether exploring Africa, the waters of the south Pacific, the highest reaches of the atmosphere or the deepest ocean trenches, we get a sense of Earth’s vastness and the appeal that the unknown holds for a few intrepid souls.
Each section includes a few pages detailing what we know about the explorers, a little about the historical, social or political context of the voyage, the technology used for travel (boats, balloons, submersibles, rockets) and for navigation, and maps. Mesmerizing foldouts depict highly detailed cross-sections of the vessels used. Illustrator Stephen Biesty does an excellent job. Pulling out each section feels somewhat like opening a treasure map.
This book would be an excellent addition to a unit on explorers, providing enough information to be useful for report writing, and promoting geographical and historical thinking. Overall, this is an engrossing book to get lost in, especially looking at the illustrations.
I am the reference coordinator at The Doucette Library of Teaching Resources, a curriculum library in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.
I love connecting education students and teachers with engaging and exciting resources for classroom teaching. I believe that resources that get me excited (or those that get you excited) are the ones with the best potential to get kids interested in learning about - well, everything. Finding those books that connect to the real world are the ones I enjoy promoting the most.