Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

National Geographic Exploration Experience

I’m a sucker for coffee table books. You know, those ridiculously oversized books that everyone puts out for company, but that no one actually reads? I’ve also found that Ollie’s is the best place in the world to find interesting books for cheap. In fact, on a family trip to Ollie’s a few months back, my wife and I found the most amazing coffee table book ever, which I convinced her we needed to buy because the kids would certainly use it for school some day. And though my wife is far too clever to be taken in by my ruse, and realized that I just wanted the book for myself, she still went along with me and we bought it.

The book in question is called Exploration Experience and it is published by the National Geographic Society. It chronicles the exploits of the world’s most famous explorers from the 1400s to the 1900s, from the New World to the South Pole, from Cortez to Shackleton. I’ve always loved stories of exploration and adventure. As a kid, I loved Indiana Jones, archaeology, and pretty much anything connected to British colonialism, like The Jungle Book. And, yes, I’m still enamored with all those things today.

However, the real point of interest in this book is the fact that it comes with over thirty historic reproductions of important documents. And these aren’t mere photocopies. There is one reproduction of a map made by a Jesuit missionary to China in the 1600s which is at least two feet long. Whole booklets are included, letters reproduced, supplies lists, watercolors, journals. It’s so much fun just to sit and unfold everything piece by piece. And did I mention that the whole thing comes with a cd-rom containing dozens of maps? I haven’t even had a chance to look at half the stuff in the book, but it’s a great diversion whenever I have a moment, and the kids love looking at it as well. It retails for $50 ($36 on Amazon), but I got it for considerably less at Ollie’s. However, it would easily be worth the full price. If exploration/adventure sort of things make you squeal with joy like a 6 year old, then you really ought to find a copy of this book.

Here are some examples of what’s inside:

Map of Tenochtitlan drawn by Cortez

Letter from Francois I to Jacques Cartier to colonize the region near Montreal

David Livingstone's watercolor sketch of Victoria Falls

List of supplies for a ship sent to relieve Robert Scott's Antarctic Expedition
Letter from Roald Amundsen to the king of Norway regarding Antarctic exploration

Program for a Dinner at which Shackleton pitched his idea for an Antarctic Expedition


Erica said…
This book looks so awesome!

On the note of exploration, have you read "The Lost City of Z" yet? It's about the search for what's more or less the Brazilian version of El Dorado. Pretty interesting.
Rick said…
The Lost City of Z is now on my reading list. Thanks.