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The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,128 ratings  ·  196 reviews
The spectacular, true story of a scrappy teenager from New York’s Lower East Side who stowed away on the Roaring Twenties’ most remarkable feat of science and daring: an expedition to Antarctica.

It was 1928: a time of illicit booze, of Gatsby and Babe Ruth, of freewheeling fun. The Great War was over and American optimism was higher than the stock market. What better momen
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Simon Schuster (first published January 15th 2018)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,128 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
❄️ 4 adventurous, Antarctic stars to The Stowaway ❄️

I enjoy reading nonfiction, and it’s a delight when I read nonfiction that feels like fiction. I would say this particular book feels mostly like fiction, but it is a bit on the detailed side. This worked perfectly for me, but I wanted to mention it for fiction fans who might be considering this book.

What fascinated me from the start is I was yet again reading about the 1920s in the United States! I’ve read several books lately set during tha
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs-read
**4.5-stars rounded up**

'Wherever you're from, there's always somewhere more exciting.'

A rollicking ride to the edge of the earth and back!

The story of Billy Gawronski is one I had never heard before, but I feel like now, it will be one that I never forget.

A true tale of perseverance and adventure. Young Billy dreamed of traveling to far off places.

When the infamous Admiral Byrd planned to depart for an excursion from NYC, where Billy lived with his immigrant parents, to the last unknown fronti
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
In 1928, Billy Gawronski was the 17 year old son of a Polish immigrant family that once lived in the lower east side of Manhattan. He was looking for more adventure than he would find by joining his father's interior decorating business and he became obsessed with Antarctica. After repeated attempts, he managed to successfully stow away on one of the ships headed to Antartica as part of Richard Byrd's first expedition. I was expecting an adventure story but what I got was the biography of man wh ...more
Andy Weston
As a reader of almost anything that is polar discovery based, especially historical, I was really disappointed by this. It is the story of a young man, Billy Gawronski, Who stows away on Commander Byrd’s voyage of 1928 and mission to fly the first plane over Antarctica.

Though Shapiro has done the necessary research, she fails in the ability to tell a story. It reads like a Wikipedia page. Inevitably I make comparisons to other recent polar discovery non-fiction, the tremendous In The Kingdom O
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Stowaway starts with a great opening and continues as a tightly written narrative. It's an entertaining non-fiction that reads like fiction. Plucky Billy Gawronski is a highly likable, smart-aleck, teenager who stows away on Admiral Byrd's ship to Antartica. What's special about this book is that I wanted to know more about Billy as he aged - he became a friend. Laurie Shapiro describes the many real individuals with a light, caring and amusing touch so that Billy's parents, teachers, and hi ...more
Valerity (Val)
An enjoyable, well written and researched true story about a recent high school graduate Billy Gawronski, who fears being resigned to a life in his father's upholstery business, while he dreams of a life of adventure. He wants permission to go off and join his hero Admiral Richard Byrd who is about to embark on an expedition to Antarctica, but his father has refused, and now it's far too late to apply. He is determined to stow away if necessary, to get his place on this trip...and it leads to a ...more
The Captain
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Ahoy there me mateys! Though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. So occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. I received this non-fiction eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

This novel was recommended by stephanie @ adventuresofabibliophile. The title and cover immediately captured me
Jennifer S. Brown
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
What an amazing story about a young man who is a stowaway on then-Commander Byrd's Antarctic expedition in 1928. I normally gravitate toward fiction, but this book gripped me, and I read it in a single day. The balance between background/history and adventure story was perfect, and a clear picture, through Shapiro's use of great details, emerged of both the times and the exploits of the crew. I developed a real connection to Billy Gawronski (and also his poor, frightened mother!) and was happy w ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 1928, Admiral Richard Byrd decided to explore the unknown..the Antarctica. At that time going to Antarctica was the last frontier to conquer on earth and just the idea of his attempting this voyage was the stuff of legends. Thousands of men and women wanted to be a part of Byrd's adventure, and even members of the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt family begged to be allowed to come along.
Then you meet Billy Gawronski, a 17 year old from New York who was so desperate to be a part of that he jumped
Wow, Billy Gawronski had pluck.

3.25 ☆
3.75 stars

Billy Gawronski’s parents immigrated from Poland to New York. He grew up wanting to be a sailor, and at 17, though his Dad wanted him to take over his successful interior design business, Billy stowed away on a ship belonging to his hero, Richard Byrd. Byrd had planned to be the first to fly over the Atlantic, but Lindberg just barely beat him to it. Instead, Byrd decided to head to Antarctica by ship, then to be the first to fly to the South Pole. Billy wanted to be part of it all.

Donna Hines
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Extraordinary! Exquisite! A spectacular true account of a young NY boy Billy Gawronski and his determination to make a name for himself on an expedition that would go down in history as one of the greats.
I'm in awe of this story as I've never heard about the Stowaway and was mesmerized by this story. A remarkable feat considering the roaring 20's and early 30's during The Great Depression , Prohibition and the ending of the Great War.
Everyone wanted to have their hand in this media frenzy from t
Bonnye Reed
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
GNab Laurie Gwen Shapiro has done an exquisite job of bringing to life the times and trials of that Polish stowaway 'Billy' Gawronski. Her author's note following this work, telling of the steps and luck involved in uncovering the story of the life of this stowaway is as extraordinary as the tale itself. This is a book I was not able to put down.

Every decision Billy makes, from the approach most hidden while swimming through the dark port waters in the small hours to stow away on the 'City of Ne
Feb 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Looking at the other reviews, I am definitely in the minority with regards to this book!

I am a big fan of historical books; I find learning about other time periods and how life was then fascinating. I am also a big fan of biographies because I love the feeling of getting to know a person, seeing what shaped their life. Putting the two together, I thought The Stowaway would carry me away with young Billy on his adventure to travel with Admiral Byrd to the South Pole. A sure fit, I thought. I can
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adventures change you. Let's say, I have never been one to have looked out new adventures. I am that girl who prefers not to have surprises, and to have complete control over my life. I have definitely never been an adventure-junkie.

I am still not, but I have learned to appreciate change and recognize that, without it, your life will be dull, you will never learn to take what life throws at you, and you never grow. A few years ago, I went to Costa Rica. My husband is completely the opposite from
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great read! Full of so many details about the early 20th century in America: the media landscape, New York (esp. the Polish community), & Antarctica (of course). An interesting detail was that the expedition at one point speculated to the press that they might find "lost world" sort of environments, or even humans living on the continent; this made me wonder if that was the state of knowledge in the 1920s, or if the expedition was feeding sensational ideas to the press in hopes of increasing p ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a winter person at all. But a recent cold, blustery week seemed like the perfect setting to listen to Laurie Gwen Shapiro's latest book - The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica.

While adventures and tales can by imagined by authors, sometimes the most intriguing and captivating stories are those plucked from real life. Such is the case of Billy Gawronski. In 1928, Billy was a seventeen year old high school student. Explorer Richard Byrd was putting together an
Vivian Rapacciuolo
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
wish that was me :(
William Matthies
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A true story about a teenager who repeatedly attempted to stowaway on the late 1920's Admiral Byrd expedition to Anartica. As author Shapiro says, "Everyone wanted in on the adventure". If you, like me, are a sucker for non-fiction adventure stories, you'll enjoy this book. ...more
This book about a stowaway on Richard Byrd’s 1928 trip to Antarctica seemed a natural for me to read. It was okay. The author obviously did a huge amount of research and interviewing, but she failed to continue research on the side topics. It was almost as if she felt she had to include everything she found out and often the topics were okay, but not handled right. There needed to be more about the ancillary topic or it needed to be left out. For example, the few paragraphs about women flyers is ...more
Book Club of One
I received a free copy of this book through The Goodreads Giveaway program.

The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica delivers on its title. It is an account of the frequently misspelled adventures of Billy Gawronski determination to be part of Richard Byrd's 1928 Antarctic exploration expedition. Gawronski manages to be part of this adventure by stowing away, not once but three times. He succeeds and gets to be part of the experience, but does not winter over with the m
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was not what I thought it would be. I love true life adventure stories and was very excited to listen to The Stowaway. I wanted to go along with Billy to Antarctica, and experience all he did. Sadly, the book did not give me that. I thought the book started out good. We learned about Billy, his parents, and his attempt to stowaway on the trip to Antarctica. We were told how he did this, how he was discovered, and then most of the book was focused more on other people and facts leading ...more
Carly Smith
Although an interesting premise for a book, and an exciting first few chapters (despite the long, drawn out history of the stowaway’s parents and their backgrounds), I could not get into this book. The author’s writing style was so difficult for me to read, and the sentences and paragraphs did not flow. It read more like a stitched together Wikipedia article. It seemed as though they grabbed every tidbit of information available around this era - whether it was relevant to the topic or not - and ...more
Joe Jones
Billy Gawronski wanted something more than just working in the family business in late 1920's New York City. He had a dream of adventure and exploration. Richard Byrd's planned trip to Antarctica was just the ticket and nothing was going to stop Billy from joining the crew. Even if he had to stowaway. More than once! A fascinating tale I knew nothing about brought to life. And what a life Billy led. History buffs, adventure fans, and those just looking for a real life story of someone achieving ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ms. Shapiro brought this amazing story to life. It reads like fiction, but it's not. No stuffy professor, boring, dust ridden, dry reading here. Billy is someone I admire. The guy had chutzpah! I'll confess to being a bit envious. There are oftentimes that I wish I had discovered my love of the Northern Arctic much earlier in life. Would it have made a difference? Ach, probably not. Thankfully I have fantastic books like this. If you like tale of the north or south regions, and adventure then th ...more
Angela Hursh
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm glad I choose this nonfiction adventure tale as my first book of 2019. If you loved Radium Girls, or if you love real-life adventure stories, you'll enjoy this. It's short and does a great job of covering the story in historical context without being boring at all. ...more
Allen Adams

What would you be willing to do to gain the opportunity to experience an adventure of a lifetime? What risks would you take to take part in something historic? How far would you go? Would you travel to the ends of the earth?

For Billy Gawronski, the answer to that last question was “Yes.”

Young Billy is the star of Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s new book “The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica.” It’s the true story of a teenager who wanted
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Interesting story but the book did not do it justice. The Epilogue was the best chapter. The title made it seem like the book would be about Billy and his trip to Antarctica but there was a lot of other "filler" included in the book. It felt like reading a bunch of newspaper articles edited together.

An inquisitive story about a boy who did anything he could to become a part of the crew adventuring to Antarctica but truly the story is about the whole experience of this boy including his parentage, upbringing, knack for languages and an eye for art/design, that then catapulted him right into one adventure after another.

It's fascinating to listen to once you realize it is more about the young man's adventure (in life) and not just about the treacherous travel to Antarctica- plus the numerous
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2018
2 stars might be generous. This was disappointing. There was so much random details NOT about Billy. I don't really need to know all 39 Boy Scout merit badges about one of the crew members. Felt like the author was just filling space to make a book. ...more
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Laurie Gwen Shapiro is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist whose writing has appeared in The New Yorker, New York, Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, The Forward, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. The Stowaway is her first full-length work of nonfiction.

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