by Don Starkell
When I was growing up, my family did lots of camping and we went on many canoe trips down river stretches, some quiet and peaceful with glimpses of wildlife, others challenging and exciting with rushing whitewater. There were a number of books on canoeing (both instructional and inspiring) that sat on the family bookshelves, and this is one that got read enough times it began to fall apart. It's just that fantastic.
Paddle to the Amazon is about a father and son team that traveled from Winnipeg, Canada down the Mississippi river and through ocean waters to the mouth of the Amazon river in Brazil, by the power of their own arms in a canoe. On the long journey -over 12,000 miles- they suffered from sunburn, salt sores, illness and sometimes even faced starvation. They traversed numerous foreign countries- sometimes welcomed and assisted by friendly strangers, other times facing thievery or arrest by hostile natives (often exacerbated by the language barrier). Then there's the dangers of weather, not to mention wild animals. In particular I still recall vivid scenes with crocodiles, huge snakes and fearsome insects, even though it's been years since I read the book! It's amazing what hardships the Starkells went through to complete their journey, especially in the face of setbacks when they forgot (or lost) crucial supplies and gear. It's one of those stories that makes you catch your breath, amazed at the frequent scrapes with danger, astonished at what some people will put themselves through, and cheering when they finally reach their goal. A great adventure story.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 320 pages, 1987
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Helen Foster James