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First to the Top

post written by Emma Filbrun

First to the Top by David HillTitle: First to the Top
Author: David Hill
Major Themes: Edmund Hillary, Mount Everest, Mountain Climbing, New Zealand
Synopsis: What did Edmund Hillary do in his lifetime, besides climbing the tallest mountain in the world?

I had never seen a picture book about Edmund Hillary before, so when I noticed First to the Top on a rare visit to the library, it was quickly added to our pile. This book is even more special to us because Hillary was a New Zealander! He was born in Auckland, and spent a good part of his life in this country.

A lot of this book tells, briefly, the story of the first successful climb of Mount Everest. Hillary was part of a group of mountaineers trying to conquer the world’s highest mountain. After the Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, saved his life, the two stuck together. Another team attempted to reach the summit, but failed—and then Hillary and Tenzing were chosen for the next attempt. The account and pictures of how they accomplished the feat are amazing.

I like the illustrations in this story. They are fairly realistic paintings. My little boys were especially intrigued by the one showing the two men at the summit of Everest, with mountains peaks all around below them, sticking through the clouds. I had a lot of questions to answer, such as, “How did they know Everest was the tallest? Did someone take a picture of the others?”

Children are fascinated by the story of Sir Edmund Hillary, and so many of the details in this book sparked more questions. You might get the chance to look for information about New Zealand, beekeeping, and the Ganges River, as well as the Himalayas and mountain climbing!

WARNING: At the summit, Tenzing prayed to the mountain.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 3 – 4, 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9


Links to buy First to the Top:

Amazon: Hardcover

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Hardcover


Edmund Hillary, Mount Everest, Mountain Climbing, New Zealand

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