Christopher Columbus, the Myths and Truths About the World’s Most Celebrated Explorer

Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids: with 21 Activities

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  • Targeted Audience: Upper Elementary, Middle & High School (Ages 9 and Up)
  • Genre: Non-fiction
  • Author: Ronald A. Reis
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press
  • Publication Date:October 1, 2013
  • Binding: Paper Back
  • Dimensions: 10.9″ X 6.4″″
  • Printing: Two Color, Drawings and Photographs
  • Length:144 Pages
  • Retail: $16.95
  • ISBN:978-1613746745

Being a  former travel writer for luxury cruise lines, who often wrote about the history of the world, you’d think I’d be somewhat of a master on the subject of Christopher Columbus – perhaps the most written about figure in human history. But reading this book made me realize there was a lot I didn’t know.

 One Fascinating Fact After Another

Did you know that every portrait of Columbus that was ever painted was done after the explorer’s death? So no one is absolutely certain about what he looked like…Did you know that the Admiral and his men were marooned on the island of Jamaica in 1503 and stayed there for one year and five days until they were rescued?…Or that Columbus married a woman in 1479  he hardly knew, with no dowry, named, Felipa Moniz Perestrella. Tragically she died the next year shortly after giving birth to their son, Diego from causes that remain uncertain today. Despite all of Columbus’ writings, he never once mentioned his wife…In 1486 he impregnated his young mistress, Beatriz Enriquezde Herana with his second son, Ferdinand. Beatriz was too far beneath Columbus in social status, so he never married her…And did you know that there are historical experts who believe that Columbus was Jewish, despite the fact that there is no direct evidence to support that theory?

These are just some of the many fascinating facts in the book. Learn many more, including those that dispel long-held myths about the Admiral.

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An Extremely Well Organized Book

A wonderful timeline in the book lets reader know Columbus set out on four major explorations of the Americas, and I recommend that readers study this closely before getting into the chapters so they can get the proper perspective of the order in which Columbus explored. The eight chapters of the book delve into the highlights of each exploration including the discoveries, political situations, indigenous populations, weather challenges, hardships,  triumphs and much more.

21 Activities

21 activities are included in the book, all related to Columbus and the era of his discoveries. They are not only extremely educational but also fun to do. You can Make a Compass or Ancient Globe, Pan for Gold, Make a Sundial and much more.

I’ve read so many Chicago Review Press books from the For Kids Series with 21 Activities, that once and for all I decided to try one activity for myself. I roughly drew what I would imagine my family’s Coat of Arms to be, using the template in the book. I included everything that was important to us: Knowledge (books), family, science, travel, dogs, nature, helping others and fitness.

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What This Book Teaches

Of the many lessons in Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration, what impresses me most is that author Ronald A. Reis really makes readers think about the importance of seeking the truth when researching an historical figure. He lets us know that just because a theory is known to be fact, it doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Readers will come to know the man that Columbus truly was and get a feel for how challenging life was for explorers, back in a time where life spans were much shorter and sanitary conditions and medical advances were nothing like they are today. The fifteenth century was a time where few people ever bathed and fatal disease was rampant.

Children will also learn about the politics of Europe at the time and Columbus’ important relationship with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They will learn about geography, one of my favorite subjects, and be introduced to indigenous cultures in the Americas that Columbus encountered. Many excellent drawings and photos help make these stories come to life.

One of the more important facts they will take away from the book is that Columbus, who died with great wealth, did not die with great fame. It would be many many years later before his name would be credited to his triumphant achievements. Finally,, they will get a glimpse into the achievements of many explorers who came before and after Columbus as well.

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About the Author

Ronald A. Reis is the Technology Department Chair at Los Angeles Valley College. He is the author of several young adult nonfiction books, including African Americans and the Civil War, Buffalo Bill Cody (winner of the 2011 Spur Award for the Best Juvenile Nonfiction Biography About the West, from the Western Writers of America), and The World Trade Organization. He lives in Calabasas, California.

Further Learning

  1. In the back of the book is a list of many useful websites for further learning, as well as a glossary and bibliography.
  2. Map out the routes Columbus took on each of his four voyages to the Americas.
  3. Research what life was like in Europe during Columbus’ time, just prior to the Renaissance era. What were living conditions like? What did people eat? How did they dress? How long did they live? What were the diseases at the time? What parts of the world had yet to be discovered?
  4. Make a list of the myths you uncover about Columbus while reading the book.

An Ideal Home or School Library = Chicago Review Press Books

I’ve been so fortunate to have reviewed many titles in this extraordinary series. I cannot say enough about how significant their contribution is to the world of children’s nonfiction literature. These are among the finest educational books available today. The amount of research and fact-checking that goes into these titles is impressive, not to mention the daunting task of digging into historical photos, drawings and maps that has to take place to complete each project.

An ideal home or school library should include each and every title of the Chicago Review Press for Kids Series. These are the books that make children smart and give them the tools required to rise to the  very top of this competitive world of academics in which we live.