Robert M. Quackenbush knows that as interested as young readers might be in how it took Jules Verne thirty-five years to publish his first book, he knows that his readers will be more interested in the "fantastic voyages" that Verne wrote about. However, it is interesting to read how Verne's wife rescued his manuscript about what it would be like to explore the unknown continent of Africa in a balloon. Urged to rewrite it by a publisher as a fictional adventure story based on new scientific facts, "Five Weeks in a Balloon" not only sold, but earned Verne a twenty-year contract to write two books a year. Up to that point "Who Said There's No Man on the Moon?: A Story of Jules Verne" was the story of a struggling writer. From then on Quackenbush tells of the novels Verne wrote, which includes not only the classics like "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "From the Earth to the Moon," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and "Around the World in Eighty Days," but also Verne's lesser known but equally imaginative stories such as "The Adventures of Captain Hatteras," "The Floating City," and "Dr. Ox."
That is why Quackenbush's biography is as much a bibliography, even though not even half of Verne's sixty works are mentioned. When he labels "Mysterious Island" as Verne's masterpiece you know that his young readers will agree and that they will probably want to check that book out first, which would be a minor mistake simply because there is a significant element that makes it a sequel of sorts to one "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." That sort of gives away what the link would be, but then Quackenbush is explicit on that point so I am actually being more circumspect here. As always with Quackenbush's juvenile biographies he provides his own illustrations. With each two-page spread one side is a full-page pen drawing with blue shadings while there is always a droll cartoon below the text on the other page. Usually this is a cartoon of a reporter asking Monsieur Verne a question, which allows Quackenbush to get off a one-liner in response (e.g, "Monsieur Verne, which is your favorite of all the books that you have written?" "The next one").
Even if they have not read any of Verne's stories, young readers will understand how he came to be known as the father of modern science fiction and considered the greatest storyteller of them all (Verne is the third most translated author today, behind the odd couple of Shakespeare and Lenin). They will be able to relate to the idea of a child dreaming of traveling to exotic lands and taking such trips in their own imagination. Other books in this series by Quackenbush include "The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher: A Story of Charles Darwin," "Don't You Dare Shoot That Bear!: A Story of Theodore Roosevelt," and "What Has Wild Tom Done Now!!!?: A Story of Thomas Alva Edison. From all of these juvenile biographies you can expect more of the same.