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Hernando de Soto: Spanish Conquistador in the Americas

Hernando de Soto: Spanish Conquistador in the Americas

by Jeff C. Young

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Starting with an "explorer timeline," this title in the "Great Explorers of the World" series undertakes in seven chapters to relate the life and discoveries of the conquistador. Coming from a poverty-stricken family of Extremadura, de Soto had few options except to become a soldier. This career led him to sail with Pedrarias Davila to Panama in search of gold. After that he never looked back, taking any opportunity to plunder, kill, and acquire riches in Central America. He was with Pizarro in Peru when the Spaniards tricked Atahualpa of the Aztecs and amassed vast quantities of gold and silver, though according to the author, de Soto did not approve of killing the Aztec ruler. As a man of riches, fame, and glory, de Soto was still not satisfied but persuaded King Charles V to let him lead an expedition to Florida. This almost unbelievable journey through the American Southeast lasted four years and ended with de Soto's discovery of the middle Mississippi. He died by the river in 1542, having found no gold. Young makes clear de Soto's cruel exploitation of Native Americans—he killed thousands, even annihilating an entire tribe. The information (though brief) is sound enough, but Young's plodding, awkward writing style does not do anything to make it exciting for middle readers. Illustrations are mostly unattributed engravings and undistinguished paintings by an early twentieth-century artist, while a painting by William H. Powell depicting de Soto discovering the Mississippi is entirely fanciful. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

After a preliminary chapter that takes readers into the crux of the story, each book backtracks to the explorer's early life and the history surrounding each voyage. Admittedly it is difficult to inject much verve into the Old World politics, but these sections feel dutiful and bland. The books are best when the exploration is underway, although the authors make only limited use of the first-person accounts available. Different problems arise when the adventurers land: specifically, when they meet the locals. In LaSalle , native North Americans are referred to as Indians, a rather dated choice that is extra curious given that in Magellan the natives of the Indian subcontinent are also called Indians. DeSoto's slaughter and enslavement of South, Central, and North American native peoples (also called Indians) would seem to merit more discussion, while his actions in battle are called brave and heroic. Photos and reproductions of archival items are often small, cropped, or of poor quality; maps are inconsistent and low on detail, and the design can only be called amateurish. "The Library of Explorers and Exploration" (Rosen) offers a more balanced and questioning presentation, and has a more extensive use of primary sources and full-bleed art.-Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

Product Details

Enslow Publishers, Incorporated
Publication date:
Great Explorers of the World Series
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
11 - 17 Years

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