cover image Crocodiles, Camels, and Dugout Canoes

Crocodiles, Camels, and Dugout Canoes

Bo Zaunders, B. Zaunders. Dutton Books, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45858-6

Husband-and-wife team Zaunders (a newcomer to children's books) and Munro (the Inside-Outside Book series) have mined the annals of 19th- and 20th-century world travel and exploration literature, emerging with eight men and women whose exploits particularly fascinated them. Their enthusiasm--and their subjects' own intrepid spirits--shine through the pages of this absorbing picture book. Whether traveling with Dervla Murphy by bicycle from Ireland to India in the 1960s, sneaking into Mecca in disguise with Richard Burton in 1853, or scaling the summit of the Andes's highest mountain with 58-year-old Annie Smith Peck in 1908, readers can't help being drawn in by these dramatic incidents. Zaunders judiciously incorporates the explorers' own words, giving an immediacy and vigor to his accounts. He also has an eye for the kind of eccentric detail that appeals to children--Charles Waterton as an octogenarian prankster, for instance, hiding under the dining table and barking at a guest, or Antoine de Saint-Exupery, future author of The Little Prince, launching his literary career at age 14 with the autobiography of a top hat. Munro's watercolors pepper the pages with crisp visual detail and even inject a bit of humor, as in a depiction of proper Victorian lady Mary Kingsley bottoms-up in a leopard pit, saved from treacherous spikes by her full skirts. Informative and supremely entertaining, this book demonstrates that reading can be a great adventure, too. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)