Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sir Edmund Hillary: To Everest and Beyond, by Whitney Stewart

Whitney Stewart writes a great biography for kids in Sir Edmund Hillary: To Everest and Beyond. Stewart uses a wealth of sources (rare for children's literature), including her own interviews with the subject, his wife, and friends, in addition to books and some unpublished interviews by others. With so many books on Hillary, one might be tempted to think she's reinventing the wheel, but what emerges is a refocused narrative based around Hillary and his family that is often lost in the more dramatic or conventional books. His trip up the Ganges is here represented as a tribute to a lost wife and a means of spiritual recovery, rather than another escapist grand adventure. His journey to the South Pole is shown as a difficult life decision during the beginnings of his young family, in addition to a media frenzy. I like that Stewart trusts kids to know that role models do not stand alone, but are supported and shaped by their family and friends.

The book, published in 1996, contains a lot of the standard facts on Hillary, even if there's a bit of a refocus. His youth in New Zealand, climbing in the Southern Alps, Everest and other adventures, and his life of philanthropy are all here. The Everest material focuses on the trek to Everest and the summit climb, with some bits about the 1951 reconnaissance, Hillary's pre-climb physical, and the build-up of camps thrown in. You won't find, however, the Cho Oyu prep climb (during which Hillary and Lowe sneaked over to the north side of Everest) or Hillary's return in 1981 to visit the Kangshung Face. I still think this is a great research book for kids interested in Hillary and a good pick for libraries.

This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier entry, found here.

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