I often read of teachers wanting books to support a South American topic, particularly on the Amazon. There are lots of brilliant fiction reads - The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson and Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin - and now I can add the fabulous non-fiction title Journey to the Last River to the list of must reads.
When a hand-drawn map of the Amazon is discovered in the Royal Geographical Society that shows an area that has been mysteriously rubbed out, it triggers the beginning of an extraordinary expedition for the Unknown Adventurer and his travelling companion Bibi. What awaits deep in the Amazon? Will they find the ‘last river’? And are you brave and bold enough to join them…
This is the second book from author, illustrator and adventurer Teddy Keen. If you are not familiar with Keen’s first book, The Lost Book of Adventure, then it is well worth seeking out. It features sketches and notebooks from an incredible find in the heart of the Amazon. In 2014, a group of researchers discovered a metal container in a remote hut on the banks of the Jari River, inside were the journals of a nameless explorer and these are slowly been compiled into a series of books. Journey to the Last River is the first in this new series of spin-off adventures originating from Keen’s first book.
Lovingly recreated and presented as a replica of one of the original journals, Journey to the Last River is a breathtaking journey deep into the Amazon basin and I honestly cannot think of enough superlatives to do it justice. Each page is breathtakingly beautiful, drenched in stunning scenery and tells quite the extraordinary tale. It is the kind of adventure that children long for and whilst they may not be able to undertake such a journey themselves, they are placed right into the heart of the Amazon in this utterly gorgeous read.
Like the Amazon itself, the book is a treasure trove of delights and it is impossible not to get swept up into the expedition and to imagine yourself tagging along. You can almost reach out and touch your new surroundings, smell the fried plantains, taste the barbecued fish, hear the rumbling of the river and the ever-present sounds of the rainforest, feel the relentless heat and humidity. This is about as authentic and exhilarating as travel-writing gets.
Action and adventure are in abundance as the journey deeper into the unknown becomes more exciting, perilous and heart-stopping with each day that passes. Told in thrilling diary extracts, the non-fiction narrative reveals dangers and wonders around every turn. There are encounters with amazing, and sometimes deadly, wildlife, discoveries of incredible plants and mysterious meetings with locals. Interspersed throughout are some very welcome survival tips, just in case you do ever find yourself on your own intrepid journey into the unknown.
With hand-written looking entries, detailed illustrations, crossings out, taped in notes and specimens, a fold-out map, smudges and even bite marks from insects where the journal was briefly left unattended, the whole thing looks like a real scrapbook-come-travel-journal and it all adds immense value to create a captivating and genuine reading experience.
For avid explorers and lovers of nature, both young and old, this adventure of epic proportions will thoroughly delight and begs to be pored over for hours on end. It is time to experience the natural world as never before in this very special book.
Recommended for 9+.