Monday, August 7, 2017

The quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

Percy Fawcett has always attracted a wide circle of interest, but the general public had mostly forgotten him until the publication a few years ago of the adult title The lost city of Z by David Grann and then a movie in 2016 based on the story.

Basically, Percy Fawcett was the last of the great white British explorers. As the world changed around him, he refused to adapt to the modern age and continued to insist on the existence of a fabled lost city in the Amazon jungle. He made multiple expeditions to the jungle in search of the "lost city" but never found it. Finally, in 1925, he made one last expedition, funded by newspapers, accompanied by his son and best friend and a skeleton crew. This catapulted Fawcett and his quest to fame as people eagerly followed his adventures. After only one month, Fawcett, his son Jack and son's friend Raleigh Rimell, disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Over the years, many people from serious researchers to celebrities attempted to discover the fate of Fawcett and his fabled lost city but neither were ever found. Eventually, archeaologists discovered that there were in fact large, ancient civilizations in the jungle, although they did not resemble Fawcett's dream city. But no one ever discovered the fate of Fawcett, Jack and Raleigh.

Pizzoli translates this real-life adventure tale with his trademark minimalist illustrations and skill into a riveting epic for young readers. Blocky, graphic-like art shows the cost of Fawcett's expeditions, the loss of life, and his constant quest. Readers who like survival stories and adventures will find themselves caught by the dream and excitement of Fawcett's helpless quest.

Personally, I have a lot of problems with the continuation of the "great white explorer" narrative. Although Pizzoli makes an effort to include native reactions and participation, the focus of the story is always Fawcett. There are very few narratives that address the reactions and even existence of the people already living in the Amazonian jungles (or other places explorers "discovered"). Even more so does this narrative ignore the fate of the families left behind, like Fawcett's abandoned wife, who not only had to support their families but drum up support for the explorer.

Verdict: This will circulate, but personally I'd like to see more narratives of female explorers or native perspectives. I'm tired of dead white explorers and I don't feel that abandoning your family in pursuit of some fabled ideal is particularly noteworthy.

ISBN: 9780670016532; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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