Exploration across human history has made us and revealed us as who we are: curious, adventurous, daring.  “Into the Unknown:  How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air,” written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty, does an excellent job of capturing this side of humanity.

Ross has chosen an interesting spectrum of people to discuss, and not all of them are familiar household names.  Because of his focus on journeys he deems “amazing,” he can choose people who might not otherwise show up—Pytheas the Greek, Admiral Zheng He, and Mary Kingsley among them.  Yes, he does many of the expected people too, but I appreciated the diversity and the addition of something new to a topic often covered in the middle grades.

Accompanying Ross’s clear and informative text are Biesty’s amazing illustrations.  Each section of the book has a fold-out section that usually includes a map of where the explorer went and a schematic illustration of the method of transportation.  I learned a great deal about the various sorts of ships people used and how they changed over time, as well as more about balloons than I had known.  My only concern about this book, however, is how well these fold-out sections will last the typical wear-and-tear use of a school library.

In spite of that reservation, I plan to acquire this book for my school.  Many social studies classes look at exploration as a topic, and this book would provide a valuable set of information for students looking to stretch their knowledge.

Cross-posted at Camp Read-A-Lot