Readers will enjoy a rapid ride through history in Death on the River of Doubt as Theodore Roosevelt, his son Kermit, explorer Colonel Cândido Rondon and a jungle-hardened crew explore an uncharted river in Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest. In 1913-14, these explorers spent nearly four months surveying the river, during which time Roosevelt also planned to collect wildlife specimens for the American Museum of Natural History.
The expedition started with severe losses, as the team was forced to ditch supplies as mules and oxen died of starvation. This was just the beginning of travails for the crew. In one gripping moment, two canoes became pinned between river rocks, and Roosevelt rushed into piranha-infested waters to help free the boats, gouging his leg in the process. As Roosevelt’s leg wound and a malarial infection brought him near death, he begged Rondon to leave him behind.
Author Samantha Seiple adds realism to the story through explorers’ journal entries and photographs. In his darkest moments, Roosevelt may have doubted his expedition and his own survival, but there is no doubt that this middle grade read earns high marks for historical accuracy and adventure.