When we discovered' Legendary Journeys:Trains', I immediately checked Amazon to see if there were any other titles available in this series. At the time, there was not, but this "Legendary Journeys Ships" was listed with the option to preorder. It was never a question of if I would buy this book. After having read the Trains book, I had was certain that we would want this one as well, it was only a question of when. This book was finally released in October 2011, and I was lucky enough to buy a copy listed as used fulfilled by Amazon shortly thereafter at a bargain price of roughly £5.00. In fact I do not believe this book was used, but only very slightly defective with a small crease on the back cover.
I had very high expectations for this book prior to arrival. We have had the previous book for about a year now, and it has remained a favourite with my sons. Although my sons have always taken more interest in trains than in ships, my oldest had specifically requested some books on boats as well. Although we went into this with very high expectations, I still found myself surprised but just how much my sons ended up enjoying this book. This book went straight into the favourites pile and has held it's place there very well in the two months since.
'Legendary Journeys : Ships' is a truly luxurious book. At first glance, one is drawn in by the cover art depicting the side of a ship with a raised embossed picture of the Titanic in calm waters. My children often run their fingers over the cover, feeling the lines of the ship as well as the raised letters that make up the title of this book. This is truly a lovely book to have on display, and if my bookshelves were not so very overcrowded as it is, I would display this book facing outwards, with the cover in full view. As it stands though, this book has never made it to the bookshelves, instead it is kept on a cart beside the bed to be read over and over. But this is not just a book to read - there are tabs to pull, extending pages, and flaps to lift on your own arm chair voyage of discovery.
On opening this lovely book, the first thing one notices is the very thick card type pages, and again, beautiful illustrations. The first 2 pages show the Queen Elizabeth with two small tugs as well as a few smaller pictures depicting various maritime activities. This section focuses on why men have taken to the sea throughout the ages, be it trade, warfare or seeking out new lands beyond the horizon - or simply a holiday. It mentions that the history of sea faring is one innovation and change as new technologies bring new ways to traverse the oceans.
The next two pages take us back in time, showing a Greek Trireme which extends to the length of four pages. A small battle is taking place on the deck of the Trireme as soldiers run, sword and shield in hand to attack another boat which the trireme has clearly rammed. Flaps show the oarsmen hard at work within the ship. These pages also show us a Phoenician galley, an early Egyptian boat with sail, a Roman galley and an Arabic sailing ship.
The next section is my personal favourite - the Vikings. I am particularly taken with a Viking dragon head which would cut through the waves at the prow of the ship. The ornate carving and decoration with nails really yields a beautiful work of art, but the eyes of this mythical beast really are what sets it apart. They are almost lifelike. That said I doubt I would have nearly as much appreciation for the beauty of this thing back in the day. Viking ships war ships would not be as lovely if they were sailing towards you with attack in mind. Although Viking raids are mentioned though, the main focus of these pages is exploration, and the Vikings share page space with the Chinese and Polynesians. The first compass ( Chinese) is also shown here. This is followed by a section on exploration in the 15th - 16th centuries, but this primarily focuses on Christopher Columbus.
The next section is on piracy in the 17th - 18th century. Blackbeard's ship is featured, along with 4 well known pirate flags, and a picture of doubloons. There is brief mention of Chinese pirates as well as privateers and female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Disappointingly the most famous female pirate of all time Grace O Malley does not get a mention. My sons especially liked the pirates flags on these pages.
There are sections on warships including a large pull out of a French warship, and life as a sailor. The great American Ironclads of the civil war, the Monitor and the Merrimac share two pages, and these are certainly two very interesting ships. Only a small portion of the ship rests above the water line. The Monitor is the first ship to have been fitted with a revolving turret, a great advantage in battle. Another section covers the age of steam and the exploration of the South Pole. We were pleased to see the SS Great Britain featured here as my son had been studying it's creator, Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of another school project.
Another subject dear to my heart is tea, and this book has a lovely section on the tea races as large clipper ships raced back to English ports with their cargo of tea. One famous race took place between the Thermopylae and the Cutty Sark. I had assumed the Cutty Sark won as it is the more famous of the two ships, but my assumption was wrong. Maps show the routes taken by these ships , and I find these a nice way of including a bit of geography with the book. This page also has a small set of four pictures depicting a Greek Trireme, a frigate, a clipper and a destroyer with the speed in knots for each. I would have liked a brief comment on converting knots to mph , but this is not listed so once again we turned to Google. I was surprised to learn a not is only roughly 1.15 mph, making the top speed of a modern destroyer under 42 mph. Still I really appreciated this small section as gave both myself and the children a far better idea of relative speeds of ships.
One ship I did expect to find in this volume was the Titanic, and I was not disappointed. The Titanic has the the largest section of this book, with two pages which stretch out to a length of 6 pages, giving it a total length of at least 4.5 ' by my guess. This is a beautiful illustration of the luxury liner, and has a few flaps to lift to view inside as well. A map shows the Titanic's route while other smaller pictures provide more information on this ship and other luxury liners of this era. The ships lifeboats are clearly shown, along with the unfortunate figures that these boats could only accommodate 1,178 people, well under half the number of passengers with no mention of crew. It also mentions that this ship was thought to be unsinkable.
The book is finished off with sections on aircraft carriers, modern shipping, and ports. The aircraft carrier featured is an American ship, the USS Nimitz. There is a nice illustration of various ships from a 18th century sailing ship to a modern container ship showing a scale drawing of each, along with the length in metres. Sydney is used to illustrate a harbour city with a lovely photo showing ships coming and going. Another illustration shows Rotterdam, with a small key showing the types of cargo unloaded there.
This book is listed as 32 pages. The last page is number 30, but I suppose if we count the front and back flap, that makes 32. Normally I would moan a bit about this, but when you consider that many of these pages extend to what in effect is 3 pages, I won't complain. This is a very visual book, with a wealth of illustrations, and as such has a somewhat limited amount of space for text. I can not say it covers absolutely everything to do with ships and the sea. But it does cover a surprisingly large amount of time and innovation. It allows the reader to get a glimpse into how modern ships have developed over the years from the most primitive of boats.
I have never held a great interest in boats or ships myself, but I found myself intrigued by this book with it's lovely illustrations of seagoing vessels and far away lands. I feel that it is a lovely escapist book. Something to take out and enjoy traveling vicariously. But the children are the ones this book was purchased for, and both boys absolutely love this book. At nearly 7, my oldest has really learned a lot from this and it has satisfied his curiosity about ships. He enjoys the flaps and pull outs and was very well pleased with this.
It is my three year old though, who truly loves this book. I would not have thought to buy something like this for such a young child if he had not loved his brother's book of trains so much. I still find it difficult to recommend this book for a child under 5. But I have to admit, he has listened to this over and over again, pulled out each page, and lifted each flap. He has a million questions about the boats, and has had so much more use from this book than many others of a more appropriate age level. Of course the pull out sections could be damaged by very young hands, but they never have been. He loves this book so much, and the train one as well that he takes especially good care of it.
So as far as age recommendation - I can give none. This book can be enjoyed by both young and old. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of ships and the sea. I also think it fits in very nicely with a curriculum teaching about how technology has changed and evolved, or a basic transport theme. I have just found that a third title will be released in this series in August 'Legendary Voyages: Space'. I absolutely can not wait to be able to add it to our collection.