First to The Top – Sir Edmund Hillary’s Amazing Everest Adventure is written by David Hill and illustrated by Phoebe Morris. In a few illustrated pages, this book tells you the story of Sir Edmund Hillary – one of the two persons who were the first to summit the Mount Everest.
Written by a fellow New Zealander, the story takes you through the life of Edmund Hillary, starting from his birth to death.
Now, most of us know of his Mount Everest Expedition, we usually miss the journey he had before he climbed the Everest. I was surprised to know that as a young kid he built rafts cross the river or that he served in the air force.
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I did read about his friendship with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay when I visited the mountaineering institute in Darjeeling where there is a memorial for Tenzing Norgay. However, little do we know how the two men would have connected when they achieved such a big and pioneering feat together, in such treacherous circumstances.
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The book also talks about his other adventures like he would climb mountains or walk 50 km to climb nearest mountains just like that. He had climbed a lot of mountains before he was invited to be part of Mount Everest Mission. It was in the second mission that he got an opportunity to climb. Even in this expedition, he and Tenzing were not the first ones to attempt the Everest.
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There is a lovely account of their final summit along with the depiction of various camps on the way. When the distances look like nothing to a novice, to imagine someone negotiating the steep snow walls is beyond our imagination. This is where the illustrations play their role when words fail. Phoebe depicts the snow walls and the gap between snow and rock beautifully.
What is inspiring is that Hillary did not stop after his Summit. He kept returning to the Himalayas. He went ahead and crossed Antarctica. Such an inspiring story told in few words and beautiful illustrations.
Illustrator Morris has chosen to use shades of blue in most of his work, including the clothes of Hillary. So, you get a bit of monotone through the book. But it suits the story of someone who climbed the snow-clad Himalayas.
I can definitely recommend this book for children around you. I hope publishers commission more such books on inspiring personalities. That highlight, not just the achievement we know them for. But also the journey that prepared them for it.
Go read it or gift it to the children around you.