Unusual, often path-breaking, journeys by men and women, from the earliest recorded wanderings, in all directions and by all modes of transport.
Of course Christopher Columbus is here. He gets but five lines—as the author so amply and tantalizingly demonstrates, there are too many fantastic journeys to count. (Those five lines are uncritical, referring to the first encounter between Columbus and the Taino as “an incredible cross-cultural conversation.”) Proceeding roughly chronologically throughout, then gathering the voyages either physiographically—land, water, air, and ice and snow—or by mode of transport, Litton covers the Kon-Tiki, Nellie Bly, Ernest Shackleton, Marco Polo, Che Guevara’s motorcycle diaries, and the Pony Express. In the two-page spreads, readers witness the first European encounters with Timbuktu (by Moorish Spaniard Joannes Leo Africanus) and Tibet (by Russian Nikolay Przewalski, but Indian Nain Singh Rawat got there before him); trace the extraordinary footsteps of Ibn Battuta from Morocco to China; and meet the great, blind English traveler James Holman, who circled the Earth 10 times. Each of the major chapters is broken down into smaller vignettes, providing not only the basic facts, but also little particularities to add local color. The illustrators’ dramatic ink drawings give a sense of movement and sweep but do not escape exoticization. Similarly, while Litton makes clear efforts to break out of the Eurocentric confines of the genre, repeated use of vocabulary such as “mysterious,” “unknown,” and “wild” reinforces the dominant mythology.
A bright, informative salute to road tripping. (Nonfiction. 10-16)