New York: Viking Penguin Young Readers Group, an Imprint of Penguin Random House, 2017
The Quest for Z is a skillfully written account of the life of Percy Fawcett, an English explorer who had a reputation for being unstoppable. He thrived in the jungle and lead many successful expeditions, before his disappearance became one of the most enduring mysteries of the Amazon. Although it is a short account of his life, this book gets to the heart of an explorer’s need to explore, even in mortal danger.
The Lost City of Z was the goal on Fawcett’s last expedition, and had become something of an obsession for the explorer. He wanted to travel light, so he brought only his oldest son Jack and Jack’s friend, Raleigh. They set out in 1925 with two local guides, horses, mules, and dogs, and with a plan to send letters back to inform newspapers of their real-time progress (as real as it could get in 1925). Their last message back was carried out by the two guides about a month into the journey.
The illustrations in The Quest for Z are charming with a School House Rock feel to them, despite the story being a bit gruesome at times. The color pallet changes to effectively reflect the dramatic parts in the story, indicating when things get serious. The back pages include an author’s note, a photograph of Fawcett, information about some who have searched for Fawcett, a glossary, and a list of selected sources. Side bars give interesting details about the Amazon, other famous explorers, mosquitoes and the Royal Geographic Society.
This is a good addition to any elementary collection. When being used in the classroom, a discussion about exploration, discovery, and colonialism would be valuable.
Dewey: 910.92 Interest Level: Grades 1-4
Reviews and Awards: Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book Guide, Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews starred, Publishers Weekly, School Library Connection starred, School Library Journal.
Older readers might like: Sir Walter Raleigh and the Quest for El Dorado by Marc Aronson.
High school students might like: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.
Fiction Pairing: The Shaman’s Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry.
On the Web: That was History YouTube channel – The Lost City of Z: Percy Fawcett Strange Unsolved Mystery at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mue-nKcSH0.
Film: The Lost City of Z (2016). Director: James Gray. Written by James Grant, adapted from the book by David Grann. Rated PG-13.