Before Columbus: Early Voyages to the Americas

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Ashcliffe
Almost every child in this country can tell you that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. But what happened before that? Most people, regardless of age, haven't given that ocean exploration much, if any, thought. The Phoenicians? The Welsh? The Chinese? Africans? The idea of any of those peoples as possible/probable explorers of the Americas would boggle most people's minds. The author very adequately explores all those—and much more—beautifully disrupting the predominant Caucasian/Christian slant to history taught in this country. This book is unique in both its content and its format. Given the content, it is the kind of book that even a quasi-history geek would relish. Teachers will find teaching points on every page: material for point-counterpoint discussions, papers, projects, and even plays. The format is both good and bad. The target audience of twelve- to eighteen-year-olds is more used to Manga than to the picture book format, so the style may be a turn-off to some potential readers. And yet, the format allows for a smooth flow of information that will cause the reader to want turn the page to see what is next. The only other drawback is the price point. it is beyond what a child would buy for him/herself or what many grandparents would pay for a gift. I wish this book had been available when I was in middle school. Reviewer: Mary Ashcliffe
School Library Journal

Gr 5-9- This engaging presentation of early exploration of the Americas offers both fact and speculation on who, when, and why voyagers came; how they traveled; and what evidence they left behind. Did Phoenicians flee their Greek conquerors in 146 BCE and land in New Hampshire, building America's mysterious "Stonehenge" and etching Phoenician letters into rocks? Are the ancient Irish beehive-shaped homes, scattered as ruins throughout New England, clues to the presence of persecuted Irish monks living among Native Americans more than 1000 years ago? Did the complexion and Welsh vocabulary of the reputedly "white" Mandan tribe of North Dakota result from assimilation of Prince Madoc's Welsh expedition in the 12th century? How did gold spearheads from West Africa become artifacts of the Olmec people of Central America? Citing legends and sagas, oral and written histories, and archaeological discoveries, Wulffson presents an intriguing array of possibilities that includes Romans, Vikings, Chinese, Irish, and Africans. Similar in content, format, documentation, and audience appeal, Russell Freedman's Who Was First? Discovering the Americas (Clarion, 2007) is more selective, factual, and colorful. Although well-captioned images and eye-catching sidebars enhance Wulffson's text, the brown and blue washed illustrations lack vibrancy. Nonetheless, the stories and unanswered questions about pre-Columbian voyagers will capture the imaginations of many readers, offer fascinating glimpses of different cultural groups, stimulate further research, and establish that Columbus's latecomer discovery fame can be attributed to the printing press, good publicity, and his royal backing.-GerryLarson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822559788
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.49 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.55 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2009

    A must read for all history buffs! Go get this one.

    A really fabulous accounting of different theories on who discovered America. Columbus is the one we all know about, but many other scenarios exist that will cause the reader to reflect on other possibilities. Illustrations and pictures are very good and the overall layout of the book is easy to read and well-written. The reader will be stimualted and will enjoy this ride to discovery.

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