Cover of The Quest for Z shows the silhouette of a man running in a jungle past a giant letter "Z"When I’m on the hunt for a nonfiction picture book topic, I’m drawn to the transcendent, to the tranformative…to the hero. I think most picture book writers are! But Greg Pizzoli seems to be making his mark in the nonfiction picture book world by writing about anti-heroes. In Tricky Vic, he profiled a con-man. In The Quest for Z he tells the story of a failed explorer. And in both books, the story is utterly compelling.

The Quest for Z tells the story of Percy Fawcett’s lifelong obsession with finding a mythical city in South America. Along the way, he explored many places and had many adventures, several lovingly and in detail retold in these pages. But when he finally gathered together enough resources to set out on his ultimate quest, he simply…disappeared. Only in Pizzoli’s hands could that anti-climactic ending feels so haunting and multi-layered.

The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous. Every spread is carefully laid out with keen graphic design. The back matter includes photographs, an author’s note, and glossary, in addition to bibliographic material.

Like Tricky Vic, this book is written for older readers, but they will slurp it up in all its unsettling uncertainty. (And though I haven’t seen it, there’s also a new film about Percy Fawcett, for those who can’t leave the topic alone.)

The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli. Viking: 2017.

Children with book around a globe

I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.