________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 23 . . . . February 17, 2012


Explorers Who Made It...or Died Trying.

Frieda Wishinsky. Illustrated by Bill Dickson.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2011.
155 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0010-6.

Subject Headings:
Explorers-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Discoveries in geography-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by B. MacDougall.

*** /4


excerpt: Why Explorers Fascinate Me

Okay, I admit it. I wouldn’t climb a mountain just because it was there, or sail on unknown seas if monsters lurked, or freeze my toes off just to plant a flag on a slab of ice at the bottom or top of the world. But people who did just that fascinate me. Why did they risk everything? Why did they brave storms, starvation and sickness? What was it about their times, goals and temperaments that made these explorers set out for the unknown? What did they hope to discover? What did they actually find, and how did they feel about the unexpected results of their journeys? Why did they continue to explore after almost dying while trying? Were they fearless, foolish or both?

Explorers Who Made it…or Died Trying is a conversational book about explorers, a topic that, by her own admission (see “excerpt), fascinates author Frieda Wishinsky. She covers 10 famous explorers or explorer pairs: Samuel de Champlain, Marco Polo, Henry Hudson, Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Hernán Cortés, Lewis and Clark, John Franklin, Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson and Roald Amundsen over a span of more than 1000 years. She both educates and engages the reader. I smiled most of my way through the book, and I don’t do that much. While this book can be used for recreational reading – I would recommend having two or more copies for travelling siblings who can then reference interesting tidbits to each other as they go through the book – it can definitely be used for Junior High Social Studies Curriculum support and in testing reading comprehension.

     Readers can join Wishinsky on an adventure through time, beginning with Erik the Red (circa 950-1003) and ending with Viking Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). Her style of writing is engaging, asking “Who were these explorers?” and even giving a “Report Card” at the end of each explorer’s chapter on whether or not the explorer was daring, exhibited persistence and whether or not they could along with others!

Where Are You Going Columbus?
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)


How do you persuade royalty to finance your journey into treacherous, uncharted seas?
1. Flatter them shamelessly.
2. Argue with them endlessly.
3. Dangle the possibility of riches, glory, fame or all three.
4. Never take no for an answer.

If you picked any of those four answers, you’re correct. Christopher Columbus tried all four ways to cajole King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain into believing that their investment in his expeditions would pay off.


What Do We Think of Columbus Today?

Christopher Columbus was not the first European to land in North America. The Vikings preceded him. But even though he never reaches the Spice Islands, he was a skilled seaman who successfully sailed to North America four times. His voyages inspired other explorers to sail to the New World. But his actions widened the slave trade and brought disease and misery to the native population.

Report Card

Christopher Columbus
Getting Along with Others...…….D+

     Explorers Who Made it…or Died Trying book would appeal to any young person with a sense of adventure. The text is interspersed with drawings and maps, keeping the reader’s attention. This well crafted book can be read in one sitting or in little bursts, such as 15 minutes of reading before bedtime.

     Frieda Wishinsky is a prolific writer of picture books, nonfiction, novels and chapters books. She holds a B.A. in International Relations with Honours in History and a Master of Science in Special Education. Her nonfiction book, Everything but the Kitchen Sink, co-authored with Elizabeth MacLeod, was the winner of the Red Cedar Information Book Award and was named a Silver Birch Honour Book. Her first picture book, Oonga Boonga, published in 1990 was voted a “Pick of the List” by the American Booksellers Association. Each One Special, was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for text and won the Print Braille Book of the Year Award. Please, Louise! was nominated for the 2008 TD Literature Award and won the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture book award. Wishinsky lives in Toronto, ON, with her husband.


B. MacDougall is a librarian at St. Timothy School in Cochrane, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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