Reviews

About The Stowaway:

“THRILLS AND CHILLS
A book about a young man’s journey to Antarctica symbolizes our own wanderlust and the power of imagination over expectation.

The audacity of stripping yourself bare and stage-diving into unknown hands, in an unknown land, is heady tonic…He is the kid who frees himself from destiny to forge his own, leapfrogging class, symbolizing our wanderlust and the power of imagination over expectation….(The Stowaway) shows us who we are, and what we are trying to escape.”
— The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“Inspired by (an) engrossing yet little-known case of derring-do, (The Stowaway) evokes the magic of early 20th-century New York.”
— The New York Times

“The Stowaway tells the true story of 17 year-old Billy Gawronski, a young polish boy growing up in New York City, who, dreaming of a life of adventure, sneaks aboard Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 expedition to Antarctica. Deeply researched and tightly written, The Stowaway is nonfiction storytelling at its finest. Billy’s remarkable personal story and the details of Byrd’s incredible voyage are only part of what hooked me; the book also brilliantly evokes the immigrant experience in New York, as well as an extraordinary period in American history when much of the world was still undiscovered and explorers, armed with guile, grit, and crude technology, were our national heroes, often greeted with massive cheering crowds and ticker tape parades upon returning from their expeditions. I read nonfiction almost exclusively, it’s part of my job here at PW, and I’ll be blunt: this has been a depressing year, filled with political works and stories of America’s decline and social disintegration. But Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s fascinating book saved my reading year, offering an incredible story, and a reminder that American Exceptionalism once had real meaning.”
Andrew R. Albanese, senior writer, Publishers Weekly

“The winning tale of an intrepid teen and his burning desire to see the world’s coldest continent.

The internet has made many kinds of historical research easier and quicker, but it can’t replace curiosity, diligence, and doggedness — not to mention luck and pluck. Those are human qualities, not e-attributes. And writer Laurie Gwen Shapiro has them all.

If she didn’t, the small but wonderful story of Billy Gawronski would have stayed buried in the archives of the New York Times, as dead as newsprint. Happily, it is now the subject of Shapiro’s The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica.”
— Washington Independent Review of Books

“An entertaining book that’s not just a profile of an adventurous teenager, but also a portrait of what it was like to go to edge of the world 90 years ago.”
—  The Verge

“Excellent… Shapiro has rescued Billy Gawronski’s story from obscurity and given us a nuanced portrait of an extraordinary young man. It’s also a fascinating window into the life of Richard Byrd and America itself in the exuberant 1920s and crushing Depression that followed.

The Stowaway is a must-read for all polar exploration enthusiasts and
lovers of well-told adventure stories.”
— USA Today

“I found the book hard to put down once I started it, and found it refreshing to read an Antarctic biography about ‘someone new’. Read it!”
— Old Antarctica Explorers newsletter

Stowaway is not only Gawronski’s tale, it also highlights a time in our nation’s history when people thrilled to the excitement of exploration, and daring men and women of the age rose to unprecedented challenges.

This is the first book written about a gutsy lad who wouldn’t take no for an answer — thanks to its author, Gawronski’s experiences have been brought to light in an inspiring-not-to-be missed story.”
The Missourian

The Stowaway is an engaging story, engagingly told, that makes the reader root for Billy … prompts one to ponder the effects of social class on fate, and the special qualities that make some people push themselves to the limit… It reads like a story of pure fiction: A scrappy teenage boy finds his way to Antarctica by sneaking aboard a famed explorer’s ship.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“This fascinating book chronicles the adventures of Billy Gawronski, a young man who was determined to join his hero, Admiral Richard Byrd, on a voyage to Antarctica.

In 1928, explorers were the rock stars of their day. Young Billy has read everything he could get his hands on about Byrd. When Byrd organizes his expedition, which will leave from New York, Billy tries to sign on, but is turned down. Let’s just say that persistence pays off and through the author’s research, readers get to hear about Billy’s exploits as well as Byrd’s.”
— The Pilot Newspaper – North Carolina

The Stowaway is a charming book, a glimpse of history that, by definition, fascinates and delights.”
— Minnesota Star Tribune

The Stowaway is a book about one man’s brush with history, and how that changed the course of his life. Shapiro has used Billy’s story to familiarize the reader with a fascinating period in early 20th-century history. Bookended by exploration on one side and the Great Depression on the other, this is an absorbing tale.”
— Bookreporter.com

“The story of Billy Gawronski, the young man who repeatedly tried to join Richard Byrd’s Antarctic expedition, reads like an adventure novel. The reality of his life is beyond the realm of the wildest imagination. Shapiro brings this resilient and resourceful man to life against the changing world of the Roaring Twenties, and his story perfectly reflects a world undergoing vast change. Combining narrative, science, and portraits of outsized personalities, Shapiro treats the reader to a story that is not only relevant but a total joy.”
— Indie Next

“This fascinating and exciting story contrasts the optimism and sense of progress of the 1920s with the devastation of the 1930s…much to delight in here.”
— Library Journal

“In this true-life adventure yarn, filmmaker Shapiro reconstructs the story of Billy Gawronski, who captured the boundless optimism of the American national psyche in the lead up to the Great Depression when, in 1928, he attempted to stow away on a ship headed to the Antarctic.
… This coming-of-age story about a strong-willed boy with an insatiable appetite for adventure … will appeal to both adult and young adult readers.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Shapiro has revived the history of a once-celebrated stowaway to Antarctica in this well-wrought true tale of a young man who captured the hearts of millions and found adventure at sea.”
— Booklist

“The narrative reads like a yarn from that era… [and] ultimately reveals as much about a country’s changing values as it does about one boy’s pluck.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Shapiro has rescued from oblivion a wondrous tale of exploration. The Stowaway is a thrilling adventure that captures not only the making of a man but of a nation.”
— David Grann, bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

“The Stowaway proves that fact is stranger and funnier and more amazing than fiction. Laurie Gwen Shapiro artfully draws the reader into the tale of Billy Gawronski, a dreamer and adventurer. Through the wild story of his travels to Antarctica, we see history come vividly to life.”
— Susan Orlean, bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin

“Laurie Gwen Shapiro wrote The Stowaway like a Jack London novel: with a sense of adventure, wonderful detail, a lineup of intriguing characters, and above all a great story. This is the best of nonfiction.”
— Mark Kurlansky, bestselling author of Paper

“What has the world come to when sled dogs and short wave radio mix, when wooden sailing barks compete with aeroplanes, when ‘Eskimos’ figuratively dance with flappers, and all of this is captured and disseminated by the first public relations hucksters? Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Stowaway is magnificent.”
— Bob Drury & Tom Clavin, bestselling authors of The Heart of Everything That Is

“The Stowaway tells one of the most engaging, but forgotten, stories from the Age of Exploration. A fascinating and charming book—I highly recommend it!”
— Douglas Preston, bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God

“Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Stowaway is full of twists, turns, and moments of pure wonder—both joy to read and a surprisingly insightful tale of scientific exploration at its generous and courageous best.”
— Deborah Blum, bestselling author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

“A gripping, gritty, mischievous tale from an age of exploration and wonder. The Stowaway makes real history read like a boy’s adventure novel.”
— Kevin Baker, bestselling author of Paradise Alley