Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z: the True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon
by Greg Pizzoli
Viking. 2017
ISBN: 9780670016532
Grades 3 and up (pretty exciting read for an adult, too)

Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise will be writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018. 

To me, books like The Quest for Z, which are introductions to interesting topics, can be a jumping off point for more research. A gateway drug, you might say, to learning more about the topic. So is the case with Pizzoli’s second nonfiction title (Tricky Vic) that recounts the adventures of British explorer Percy Fawcett, a surveyor for the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and his fascination with finding an ancient city believed to have thrived and then forgotten deep within the Amazon rain forest. 

“Less than one hundred years ago, maps of the world still included large “blank spots”: distant and dangerous lands that mapmakers and scientists had not yet explored. One of these blank spots was deep within the Amazon rain forest, in Brazil.” 

Percy Fawcett was born in Devon, England in 1867. Adventure ran in the Fawcett family. Percy’s father was a fellow for RGS and his older brother wrote adventure novels. After serving in the artillery in present-day Sri Lanka for over ten years, Fawcett, then married, returned to England, joined the RGS in London and spent over a year learning how to survive in the wild. Upon graduation, he was hired to survey the boundaries of Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru; his first expedition was in 1906. During his travels, Fawcett heard of the legend of an ancient city. “He called the mythical city “Z.” (Pronounced “zed” in British). Thus began his fascination, no obsession, with the seemingly impossible idea that large civilizations existed in the Amazon. His dream was to find it. Fawcett would travel to South America seven times (1906, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1921).  

His final trip, in 1925, was to find the lost city. Accompanying Fawcett was his eldest son, Jack, and Jack’s childhood friend Raleigh Rimell. To fund this trip Fawcett agreed to send out reports that newspapers published tracking their perilous jungle adventure. He became a star! Then, one month into their journey, after sending the last of the letters carried out by two guides, the three explores set off alone into the unexplored jungles of Brazil,  “They were never seen again.”

This informational picture book is an exciting true story of a man who seemed to thrive in the jungle. No matter how serious the danger, how many of his company fell ill and died, Fawcett always made it out alive. So his disappearance seemed impossible. The lively engaging text is combined with full-page illustrations that were made using silkscreen, photographic halftones, Zipatone, photocopy machines, newspapers, cut paper, and Photoshop. There are a few sidebars that offer more details on topics mentioned in the text. Backmatter includes an author’s note, list of Fawcett Hunters, glossary, and selected sources. 

Did Fawcett ever discover the lost city of Z? Was he ever found alive or his bones unearthed? You’ll have to read, The Quest for Z to find out.

Highly recommended. 

Go here to learn more about Greg Pizzoli.

And if older students are as fascinated about Percy Fawcett as I was, offer them this article from The New Yorker Magazine by David Grann or his book The Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon. Be sure to have on hand Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book, The Lost World: being an account of the recent amazing adventures of Professor George E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Professor Summerless, and Mr. E.D. Malone of the Daily gazette. Doyle based this book on the adventures of Percy Fawcett. 

A copy of this book was borrowed from my local public library to write this review.

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