Reading/Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Author: Gavin Bishop
Illustrator: Gavin Bishop
Publisher: Gecko Press
Eat your albatross stew and sauerkraut or you’ll get scurvy! It’s time to set sail with Britain’s HMS Endeavour. James Cook captains the voyage to discover uncharted land in the Southern hemisphere, but the one-handed cook, John Thompson, is the one keeping everyone’s bellies full. As they bounce around the Pacific Ocean, stopping in places like Brazil, Tahiti, and New Zealand, Thompson gathers recipes from natives and whips together masterpieces like stingray, shark steak, and even dog. There’s no end to the adventures as they explore new islands and Thompson struggles to keep his crew happy and healthy. He wages a war against scurvy, learns to discipline picky eaters, and competes with the other crew members to be the first to see land. Thompson also faces the harsh realities of life at sea and embraces the final hardship on their journey home.
Bishop’s take on the HMS Endeavour expedition is fun and refreshing. The text is mingled with an array of beautifully painted images and real recipes from John Thompson. The nuggets of information on every page add a unique flavor and depth to the adventure. The book also doesn’t shy away from grisly details; it embraces death, cannibalism, and hints at the maltreatment of natives. However, at times the quantity of information can become dense and rather hard to follow. The plot is often muddied and feels slow; the purpose behind the voyage itself is only mentioned in the book’s cover page, so readers starting at the story text won’t know the context of the story. Some of the text is also written at weird angles, making it hard to read. But the cook’s perspective is really fun. Seeing Thompson deliberate over how to prepare shark and what to do with picky sailors makes the story much more realistic. The recipes add a nice historical touch. Overall, despite being a little dense, the book presents history in a tangible and tasteful way that readers will easily connect with.
*Contains mild violence.