First To The Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Amazing Everest Adventure

First To The Top: Sir Edmund Hillary's Amazing Everest Adventure
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A very well written and illustrated account of Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Mt Everest. Engaging and full of interesting facts, this book brings this epic adventure to life. Best for ages 5-11.

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My children love our local library, they are frequent visitors and usually greeted by name by our excellent librarians. The only downside to these trips is that the Young Engineer is drawn to the entirely opposite children’s books to me. He prefers the non-fiction, ideally about machinery or something sciencey, lots of dry technical details and diagrams. After reading “Bulldozers are used for pushing and shoving” nearly every day when he was a one-year-old, I was very keen for some well written factual books. “Living Books”  is a term that describes books that make history and facts come alive. Written in such a way that we can feel, explore, imagine someone else’s experiences.

So it was a delight when The Young Engineer received “First To The Top” for his birthday this year. This is a very well written, easy to read and interesting story about Edmund Hillary. Cleverly done too, in that it focuses on the part of Sir Ed’s life that was Everest. He was a man with a particularly full and inspiring life, and the timeline at the back of this book fills in the details nicely.

I think there are two key reasons this book is a triumph. Firstly the illustrations and the words have been coordinated. Instead of the common two page lay-out with words on the first page and picture on the second, this book has pictures surrounding words, and words on pictures. Some large pictures, some small, each page laid out for its best interest rather than following a scripted pattern.

The second key feature is the human interest in the story.

“Their camp was so high that the sky had started turning the black colour of space. The pair lay breathing oxygen, and slept for two hours. They drank hot lemonade, slept again, and shivered in their sleeping bags.”

Enough details that imagination is truly captured. We can see what it might have been like to be on that icy cliff. But not so many details that it bogs down the reader. The illustration on this page, among other things, shows Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary’s silhouettes as they are huddled inside a tent drinking hot lemonade.

This also provides an opportunity for a cool activity to really bring history alive for children. perhaps this weekend we will build a fort (probably inside our lounge, rather than up a Himalayan Peak) and drink hot lemonade. Sir Ed becomes a real person doing both regular and extraordinary things.


A sign for me that this book was a success was this drawing by the Young Engineer. Until this point all his drawings had featured machinery of some sort, this was the first time he presented a drawing about a person. He came to show me, telling me that the one at the top was Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary was following him. I pointed out that Sir Ed was rather a lot taller than Tenzing Norgay, but he said it was just because of the mountain.

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