From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4–Another offering from the creative team that brought readers So You Want to Be President?
(2000) and So You Want to Be an Inventor?
(2002, both Philomel). The artist frames the text with a wordless depiction of a young boy trying on different hats in his room filled with a variety of artifacts. The text then seems to address the daydreaming child directly as he envisions himself setting sail for adventure. Most spreads describe two or more explorers, but only one is depicted. Small's masterful artwork, done in ink, watercolor, and pastel chalk, is full of humorous details. The explorers are primarily European and American, but cover a wide-ranging time period, from Pytheas and Alexander the Great to the present day. A short paragraph describes their claim to fame. The book is intended to inspire and intrigue browsers, not to serve as a resource for report writers. St. George includes a wide variety of explorers and expedition participants. For example, when she discusses the North Pole, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, and four Inuits are mentioned. Women such as Mary Kingsley, Amelia Earhart, and Barbara Washburn are cited. The relationship between exploration and mapmaking and the damage done to native peoples by some explorers are also touched upon. A Glossary of Famous Explorers lists full names and birth and death dates, and provides a little more information about the people mentioned. While the short snippets of information may be frustrating to some readers, the snappy tone of the text and the richly drawn illustrations will satisfy and entertain many others.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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Gr. 2-4. So You Want to Be an Inventor?
(2003), the follow-up to St. George and Small's Caldecott Medal-winning So You Want to Be a President?
(2000), attracted some criticism for lionizing white males. Explorer
improves upon that problem (five women make appearances, as do Colonel Peary's African American assistant Matthew Henson and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay), but encounters another: How does one craft a light, fun picture book about an area of endeavor so closely aligned with the checkered history of conquest? Humor is one way: St. George writes that Africa traveler Mary Kingsley "studied the cannibals, and they studied her." Elsewhere, explorers are crisply divided into "good" and "bad"; "good" explorers "respect the natives," and "bad explorers can do the natives in." The glib tone may seem inappropriate to some, but teachers and librarians will still find lots of uses for this book. The annotated list of featured explorers and the bibliography will support exploration research projects, and St. George's gung-ho language combined with Small's sprightly depictions will help ratchet up student enthusiasm. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved