Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Based on the shipboard journals of John Ledyard, just 25 when he joined Capt. James Cook's crew to discover the Northwest Passage in 1776, Laurie Lawlor's Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition is thorough and engaging. Ledyard gained notoriety when he published, in America, his account of Cook's death before British officials had a chance to issue their report; in 1786 Paris, he befriended Thomas Jefferson. Period etchings, maps and primary documents illustrate the text. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
In 1776, a twenty-five-year-old American adventurer, John Ledyard, joined the celebrated Captain James Cook and his crew aboard their flagship Resolution, sailing from England in Cook's third and final voyage. Their mission was to look for the Northwest Passage, the eagerly sought waterway that would connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This incredible four-year voyage was faithfully chronicled by Ledyard in his private journal. It turned out to be a fantastic odyssey with amazing discoveries of exotic new lands and peoples, life-threatening dangers from unfriendly natives, and harrowing hardships at sea, not only from decaying ships and dwindling supplies but later even from their own captain's strange, unpredictable behavior. Even after witnessing Cook's grisly death at the hands of Hawaiian warriors, Ledyard's thirst for adventure remained unabated. He continued to travel in mostly futile attempts to engage in trade and chanced to meet then U.S. ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, a kindred spirit in their mutual love of exploration. After they became fast friends, Ledyard's visionary ideas spurred in the American diplomat a latent desire to expand America's frontiers to the Pacific, which eventually led Jefferson as president to back Lewis and Clark's momentous westward expedition. This fascinating book, well researched and illustrated, dramatic and informative, will be enjoyed by lovers of seafaring adventures and history buffs alike. Young adult librarians should give it serious consideration. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes. Chronology. Appendix. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Holiday House, 176p, Culberson
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Cook's final expedition included a failed attempt to find a Northwest Passage and the Captain's own death in Hawaii. Lawlor describes the five-year voyage mainly from the point of view of John Ledyard, an ambitious young American marine who had hoped to earn glory and promotion. She also integrates journal entries from several of Ledyard's shipmates, which adds balance and corroboration to his sometimes florid words. Illustrations include many reproductions of lithographs rendered by the official expedition artist. The long journey involved a variety of fascinating elements. Many of the men recognized that Cook was losing his once flawless judgment and questioned his behavior even before the events leading up to his death. The author describes the interactions between the explorers and the indigenous peoples with whom they interacted largely through the points of view of the crew members. Readers clearly see how irresponsible the men were, particularly in the devastating spread of venereal diseases, but Lawlor lets the events stand on their own, without editorializing. Ledyard's role fades into the background at times during Cook's expedition, but the focus returns to him for the closing chapters, which include a correspondence with Thomas Jefferson and a failed attempt to make a fortune trading furs in Russia. Ledyard's particular circumstances and distinct personality add an intriguing perspective to the already interesting story of Cook's last journey.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The experiences of an impetuous and ambitious American-born Marine serve as a focus for a compelling account of Captain James Cook’s last expedition. Cook was a national hero to the English, exploring, mapping, and claiming vast reaches of the South Seas for the Crown; his final voyage of exploration was meant to discover the fabled Northwest Passage across the top of North America. John Ledyard, feckless, footloose, and impecunious, saw this as his golden opportunity to make his name and fortune. Lawlor (Old Crump: The True Story of a Trip West, p. 337, etc.) powerfully and evocatively puts readers on deck as the expedition languishes in the tropics, moving from island to island as rapacious and syphilitic sailors wear out their welcome among the local populations; finally pushes north to Alaska and Kamchatka; retreats, disastrously, to Hawaii; and at last limps home, minus a murdered Cook. The text is peppered with excerpts from Cook’s journals, as well as those of other sailors and retrospective accounts by Ledyard and others (all rendered with 19th-century grammar and spelling intact), and handsomely illustrated with archival materials. It would be an altogether spectacular piece of writing, were it not for the lack of textual documentation. Over and over, scenes are set and emotions described with no indication of any external authority beyond the author’s own imagination. "Suddenly Cook materialized beside Anderson. The powerful . . . captain thundered an order to the boatswain. Brown eyes blazing, Cook stared into the darkness." Which witness saw those blazing eyes in the dark? There are even snippets of dialogue recorded without attribution: " ‘Another island!’ ‘Ice ahead!’ ‘Keepher off a little!’ ‘Steady!’ " These and other novelistic touches move the narrative along at a terrific clip, but undermine its authority at the same time. A brief essay on sources is followed by a fairly extensive bibliography, but this is no substitute for references not made within the body of the text. This stands as such a powerfully written offering that the lack of documentation is a crying shame. (appendices, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823415755
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/15/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 9 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.18 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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