Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The World's Great Explorers: Edmund Hillary, by Timothy R. Gaffney

Timothy Gaffney writes another young readers' biography of Sir Edmund Hillary to add to the burn pile in The World's Great Explorers: Edmund Hillary. Though it is more thorough than most of Hillary's other young readers' biographies, the book makes a habit of mixing fact and fiction. It seems like Gaffney took pretty good notes on Hillary's books, but when there was something to add beyond the notes, he made something up rather than go back and check his references. The result is that there are a lot of good facts in this book, and some erroneous stuff thrown in. Additionally, although he seems to get the people and the lowlands correct, nearly every photograph of a mountain is mislabeled. It's seriously starting to worry me that the quality of children's literature on Everest might reflect the whole of children's books, and 90 percent of the books my daughter will read would be better used as doorstops than educational tools!

Anyway, Gaffney gives a fairly balanced view to the life of Hillary, not dwelling on Everest, but still spending most of his time on Hillary's adventures. This is definitely the story of Hillary's life as seen in the literature he produced, and might be a semi-reliable way to get an idea of what each of the books he wrote is about. Like Hillary, Gaffney understates Hillary's altruism, giving facts and some interesting stories, but not really analyzing the overall effects Hillary had on Nepal or the Sherpas. This may be the worst Hillary biography I've read so far. Sorry, dude!

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