Book Review: The Magnificent Adventures Of Henry Hudson


We’re in the car, radio blaring, and my 4th grade son throws out a random fact, "Did you know Henry Hudson was thrown overboard by his crew?"

I was silent for a beat or two to contextualize this thought.

Is he talking about his friend Henry? No…the Henry we know isn’t a “Hudson.” Is this from school? I decide to follow that thread…

“Do you mean the explorer? The guy who discovered the Hudson River around Manhattan?”

“Yeah. He also found Hudson Bay. His men didn’t like him so they threw him overboard.”

I had no idea. I also realized I needed to teach my son about “spoiler alerts.”

When I asked for details, I got nothing. The only tidbits my son absorbed about Captain Hudson was the river, the bay, and the mutiny.

I decided I needed more information (another reason to  love libraries!).  I popped in and sure enough, found a gem of a book, The Magnificent Adventures of Henry Hudson by Phillip Vail.

If you happen to spend all of your reading energy on fiction, it’s tempting to dismiss a book which is both old (published in 1965) and covers 4th grade historical material.

I get it. I wouldn’t have looked up this topic were I not curious about what a Captain has to do to be thrown overboard.

However, there are plenty of rewards for venturing off the beaten track. Long before Jon Kraukuer was writing Into Thin Air or Cheryl Strayed wrote Wild, there were talented writers giving us adventure stories.

In this book I was treated to a fascinating story filled with both daring adventures and colossally bad leadership; with awe-inspiring bravery and jaw-dropping stupidity.

How could Henry Hudson be so fearless with the sea and then be such a coward with his men? His competence/incompetence was shocking.

This guy was a dichotomy of extremes. His tepid leadership skills were on the opposite end of the spectrum from another famed explorer, Earnest Shackleton.

I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative and absolutely recommend picking up a copy at your local library. (You can also find copies on Amazon, here).

More important, I encourage you to EXPLORE material outside the typical NY Times best-seller lists. There are untold riches in the stacks you haven’t explored. So this week, if you’re normally drawn to non-fiction, try a novel. Or if fiction is your staple, try some biography or history (this may be a good place to start).

You’ll be glad you did!