The Great Expedition (New Frontier) is about a team of brave young explorers who cross wild country to deliver a valuable parcel. The journey is punishing. Some of the explorers don’t make it. But in the end, we are left with two courageous souls to admire and remember for many years to come.
That all sounds rather serious but when you open the book, the illustrations tell a different story. Our brave explorers are a group of little kids. The parcel is a present for Grandma. And the wild country…it’s really just a playground. This book is a play between words and pictures. The text is very dramatic, the illustrations light and whimsical. It all comes together in the final double page illustration, a wordless spread that depicts the land the explorers have crossed.
The Great Expedition was inspired by the story of Burke and Wills, the two men who led an 1860-61 expedition to become the first Europeans to cross the Australian continent from south to north. I couldn’t quite remember the story myself – I had forgotten my primary school history – and I started reading The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd. I’ve never read something so obsessively and by the end, I was astounded by the what these people had gone through (and put themselves through). There are a few references to the original expedition in my book: the date of the journey, the dig tree, the names of the two main characters and even the troublesome animals. It was a joy to make and, hopefully, a joy to read.