Antonia Banyard’s Dangerous Crossings!, the final installment in Annick Press’s True Stories from the Edge series, is about 10 land, air, and sea voyages that will likely leave readers young and old shaking their heads in disbelief at both the nerve and good fortune of the adventurers.
The various travellers – including three young Australian aboriginal girls forced to walk across the continent to escape their residential school, six Scandinavian scientists who rafted across the Pacific Ocean to support theories of migration, and a slave in 1840s Virginia who mailed himself to Pennsylvania – overcome many frightening obstacles on their long journeys. But however daring and brave the travellers are, their stories all emphasize the power of plain old luck and timely outside assistance.
Their adventures are still fascinating, though, and will likely have no trouble holding the attention of young readers interested in tales of far-off places and courageous (or foolhardy) doings. Banyard has heaped on the details for each place and time period, creating a vivid sense of each era’s specific quirks and challenges. She also chooses her subjects well and arranges their stories intelligently, moving back and forth between the many and varied reasons for picking up and heading out: pleasure, daring, curiosity, a search for knowledge, or escape from danger.
The author rarely slackens the pace of her brisk tales, but she fails to contextualize the distances travelled by her subjects, which could leave young readers staring blankly at the numbers. It’s hard to imagine the 7,000 kilometres covered by a 41-year-old woman who journeyed across South America in 1769 by foot, canoe, raft, boat, and servant-borne chair to reach her long-lost husband. Though the maps that accompany each story help, the absence of references to scale might be perplexing for young readers.