Non-fiction

28th January 2000 at 00:00
ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF GREAT ADVENTURES. By Richard Platt. Dorling Kindersley pound;12.99. KS2 96pp.

Two kinds of courage are celebrated in this endearingly unfashionable book - the bravery of explorers and pioneers, and the defiance of criminals and military adventurers. Thirty of their exploits are commemorated, from Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants to Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon.

Some of the stories might have been designed for the exhortation of earlier generations. Leif Eriksson challenging the polar winds en route to Vinland (now Newfoundland), Davy Crockett inching his way across an icy flood and Lindbergh landing his tiny flammable aircraft among the gaping Paris crowds are all examples of herois that have enjoyed many previous celebrations. Rene Caillie, who trekked to Timbuktu in the 1820s, and Mary Kingsley, who crossed swamps and rapids in West Africa before other Europeans, are less customary examples.

The illustrations are mainly colourful and imaginative, and they are supplemented by some small intriguing marginal photographs. Jewel-encrusted swords demonstrate the royal status of Lakshmi Bai, the Indian princess who fought to recover her lands from British imperial forces.

Other bold spirits include villain Moll Cutpurse, the cross-dressing flouter of Jacobean convention, and the Australian bandit Ned Kelly. Children and teachers will find it intriguing to select their favourite role models.


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