Book Review: My Great Expedition

Words: Justin Fox

Illustrations: Lucy Stuart-Clark

Bumble Books

Review: Brian Joss

Justin Fox is an award-winning travel writer and author of several books including Whoever Fears The Sea, a fictional account of the search for the last remaining mtepe dhow in Somalia (Penguin Random House Struik), and The Impossible Five (Tafelberg), about finding five of the most elusive animals in South Africa: the Cape mountain leopard, aardvark, pangolin, riverine rabbit and naturally occurring white lion. Now Fox has turned his hand to a travel book for children. At the age of six Justin went on the Grand Tour of Europe with his parents flying from Cape Town and visiting London, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Rome, Athens and the Greek Islands. My Great Expedition is the story of his trip where in London he saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and television for the first time. Then on to Paris to meet his sister in “clodhopper shoes” as tall as the Eiffel Tower, just in time to celebrate Bastille Day. They visited their Uncle Helmut’s mystical home set deep in a forest on the Moselle River;  Vienna, Austria, is the next stop, then Salzburg, where his mother tried to make him “like the stringy music of a small blond boy with a silly wig and boring violin”.

Venice, Justin thinks, is the best city in the world and where his brother took him up the twirling tower to see two bronze-green giants clang the hour sending a shudder through him, the pigeons and the whole of Venezia. Next stop was Florence where his dad sat on a tank in World War II listening to the booming guns. In Rome he sees fountains and olive-skinned boys on scooters whirl around Piazza Navona. Finally, their destination Greece, where he climbed the Acropolis Hill in Athens, took the ferry across the Aegean Sea to Patmos, Santorini Island and then to another island that’s home to a lonely chapel, a chiming bell and a tiny monk. Then it was time for home. With his souvenirs: the Eiffel Tower, a scarlet London bus, a plastic gondola and  Greek fishing boat, all wrapped up safely for the journey back to Cape Town, Justin knew then he would always be a traveller at heart and his “itchy feet would forever yearn to wander”.

The illustrations by Lucy Stuart-Clark for My Great Expedition were created using gouache-resist, mixed media and collage. There are images of Justin and his family too. Educational and fun to read and look at.

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