Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Everest Story, by Tim Vicary

Tim Vicary writes a reading comprehension book for mid-level school children in The Everest Story. He focuses the prose on the expeditions of 1921, 1922, 1924, 1953, and Reinhold Messner's 1980 climb, with a couple mentions of other climbs, such as the 1952 Swiss attempt. Additionally, he frames the history of Everest with the mystery of Mallory and Irvine, including the discovery of Mallory's body in 1999. He includes a number of photographic illustrations, a glossary (a strange one for a climbing book, defining words such as "dot" and "knee," while skipping mountaineering terms he uses, such as "crevasse"), and a collection of questions and activities based on the reading.

Though I suppose the book serves its purpose as a reading comprehension tool, the information in the book is at times misleading and at others incorrect. I never would have expected a book printed by the Oxford University Press to contain as many as three factual errors on a single page (page 5), and so much misinformation throughout. Though the author for the most part gets the story correct, details continually evade him, such as Hillary's meeting the 1953 expedition in Kathmandu (or perhaps Bombay, if you want to get technical) rather than Thyangboche, George Everest's not actually making the first maps of the Himalaya, or Norton and Somervell's 1924 Camp VI not actually being placed higher than anyone had ever climbed. Additionally, his quotes are sometimes theoretical or perhaps paraphrased, such as foregoing Conrad Anker's famous 1999 "mandatory group meeting" radio message in favor of dialogue telling his fellow searchers to come down and look at this. His questions for the most part make sense, though some of the multiple choice questions have multiple correct answers. The analytical questions made me happy, but I wonder how well kids who need to have "tiny" defined for them in the glossary would do with them.

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