Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tupaia Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett

Everyone has heard the story of Captain Cook and his expedition adventures, but did you ever know he had a Polynesian navigator?

Praeger published this book in January in hardcover and graciously sent me an ARC for review (thank you).  Check with your local bookstore to locate a copy for your library.  This is a fascinating tale.

I've read about Captain Cook, have seen a piece of a leg bone made into a fish hook in a museum in Hawaii that was attributed to him, and was aware of the bad sexual habits of his crew.  But I had no idea that during his earlier travels, he had acquired a Polynesian navigator.

Ms. Druett does an excellent job of offering her well-researched facts in a nonfiction story that reads almost like fiction.  It's not the least bit boring (and I'm not fond of nonfiction, so that's saying something).  

Tupaia could be a legend himself.  He was man of importance in his own world, and his knowledge of navigation came from his own experience and the oral tales his tribesmen shared of their adventures.  He had learned astronomy, navigation and meteorology by watching the impact of weather on the islands and travelling between islands in canoes, as well as through oral history.  

The hierarchy and culture of the Polynesian people is very interesting.  The culture clash between Captain Cook and his men and the natives has been repeated many times over through the years in other times and environments, but it makes fascinating reading.

Tupaia was not only a navigator but almost an ambassador for Captain Cook.  He was a very important part of this exploratory voyage.  Yet his name is relatively unmentioned in historical accounts.  He also dies ignominiously with the cause of his death hidden so Cook's record will be unsullied.  He deserved much more.

Ms. Druett makes you care about this man as she shows him drawing out a map of Polynesian islands when he'd never visited them - and it's accurate.  He was very brilliant man and I'm glad she's written his tale for the world to see, even if it's many years late.

If you have an interest in history, Captain Cook, or just in interesting tales, this book will be a pleasure for you to read.  Check it out at your local bookstore.

Or, you can enter the contest to win my ARC by leaving a comment here on my blog and sending me an email at info @ (take out the spaces) with your name and ADDRESS and why you'd like to read it.  I'll pick a winner in about a week.

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