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The great unknown

Adventure awaits not only those intrepid real-life explorers who brave the great unknown…but also the readers of these captivating historical narratives about the exploration of space, the Amazon rainforest, the high seas, and the Arctic.

Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond is a thoughtful, informative guide to the history of space exploration. Topics include ancient astronomy, the development of telescopes, life-support technologies, and the probes and rovers that have investigated within (and now beyond) our solar system. Author Martin Jenkins’s commentary is clear and conversational yet sophisticated. Illustrator Stephen Biesty’s intricate, copiously labeled pictures are a marvel, evoking the precision and detail of engineering schematics, but with clever design decisions that make each image friendly and inviting. (Candlewick, 10–14 years)

In 1879, while on an expedition to the North Pole, the steamer Jeannette got stuck in Arctic ice for twenty months. The crew was forced on a death march across hundreds of miles of inhospitable land; of the thirty-three men aboard, twelve survived. Husband-and-wife team Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace bring Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story to vivid life, expertly incorporating first-person quotes from journals and letters and including archival sketches, engravings, etc., which lend immediacy to the history. A fascinating author’s note details “the thrills of research.” (Boyds Mills/Calkins, 10–14 years)

In February 1717, pirate captain “Black Sam” Bellamy captured the gold-laden slave ship the Whydah on its return trip from Jamaica to England and transformed it into the most feared pirate ship of its day. In April of that same year the Whydah sank; it lay on the ocean floor for 267 years until a team of treasure hunters and marine archaeologists found it off the Cape Cod coast in 1984. Martin W. Sandler’s The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found enlivens the historical narrative by fleshing out biographical details, sharing (and occasionally debunking) myths and legends, and spotlighting contemporary excavation of the shipwreck site. (Candlewick, 10–14 years)

In The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon, Greg Pizzoli recounts the mysterious tale of the early-twentieth-century British adventurer who disappeared in the rainforests of Brazil while searching for a lost ancient city that he called “Z.” The straightforward, chronological story is supplemented with maps, logbook-style illustrations, and sidebars; dialogue inside speech bubbles is more casual in tone, lightening the narrative. Pizzoli’s unique mix of techniques gives images a thick, textured feel, while the color palette emits the heat and lush atmosphere of the rainforest. (Viking, 8–11 years)

From the October 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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