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More than 300 years ago, a young Dutch sailor named Abel Tasman stood on the prow of a ship he and his crew had sailed across wild, uncharted waters. In the distance, through a shroud of mist, the rugged outline of steep hills rose from the ocean waves. Could this be Terra Australis - the great southern land?
Abel Tasman and his crew were most likely the first Europeans the Aboriginal people of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand had ever seen. Join the journey and discover the legacy left behind.
This book could not have come at a better time for Mr Seven to review with me. He had been unwell for a few days and was finding resting up was becoming boring - he had read everything he could get his hands on and he was not up to tackling anything more physical to occupy himself. He has a keen interest in history and loves to learn about new discoveries and events that shaped the world. Although most of what he reads is fiction, there is a good amount of non-fiction on his shelves as well.
All New Zealand kids have heard of Abel Tasman - and if not they should have! - but not many know the details of his travels and the early contribution he made towards opening up this part of the world to successive immigrations. People often think of Abel Tasman and James Cook as contemporaries; the reality is that Tasman was around a long time before Cook - he died long before Cook was born! Books like this one help to raise awareness of the history of the Pacific by focusing on the journeys of one explorer.
The format of this book is beautifully planned. It is a hard cover edition which means it will withstand a fair bit of handling, and the detailed maps in the end covers are so finely printed that they need to be viewed through a magnifying glass if the young reader wants to investigate the finer detail. Mr Seven was fascinated by the imaginative names given to some of the places, and he thought the spelling was amazing! We compared some of the coastlines to those on a modern map and had an interesting discussion on why the older map was so inaccurate - a learning experience in itself.
The rest of the illustrations in the book evoke the voyage made by Tasman and his crew. They offer a vivid impression of what life would have been like on a sailing ship as it travelled through storms, encountered a live volcano, and anchored off shore for several days before the seas were calm enough for the crew to dock; and they show through diagrams what the layout of the ship would have been. Mr Seven found there was a huge contrast between travel conditions then and today when we can cross continents within a few hours.
The last few pages are dedicated to facts and brief biographical details of the people mentioned in the book. I liked the way the book is divided between a story which is accessible to quite young children and reference material which is more relevant to older readers - it means that the book has a wide appeal and will be used as a learning tool in years to come. In this way, the factual details do not interfere with the flow of the story; integrating them into the main text might cause reluctant readers to tune out. As it is, Mr Seven was more interested in the story and illustrations. No doubt he will return to the reference section when he gets older.
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