Title: Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Heroes of History
Major Themes: Christopher Columbus, Exploration, Sailing
Synopsis: The life of Christopher Columbus is described, in detail.
I announced that we were going to read Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea for our bedtime story. My announcement was greeted with groans and complaints. “It’s boring!” “I don’t want to read about Christopher Columbus!” I replied, “Sorry, we’re going to read it anyway.” We started reading it. The first few chapters received indifference; most of the family was simply enduring what Mom forced them to listen to. That attitude changed, however, by the time we were several chapters into it, and by the time we finished, no one wanted to miss any of the story! I was pleased, the day after we finished it, to hear my 10-year-old tell his daddy, in great detail, what happened in the last two chapters. Daddy had been listening to me read the book, but had to miss those two chapters. I was quite impressed with what my son remembered.
Christopher Columbus is quite a controversial character. To some, he is a hero who opened up a whole new world for crowded Europe to settle. To others, he is a villain, who treated the Native Americans with appalling cruelty and began the process of enslaving and destroying entire civilizations. The Benges have chosen to narrate his life from his own point of view, quoting from his own writings and telling his life story as he saw it. Columbus saw himself as an instrument of God, opening the way for Christianity to spread farther around the globe.
We really enjoyed the details included which bring Columbus’s life and the times to life. I had read a few biographies of him before, so I knew about stories such as the shipwreck which was the cause of Columbus living in Portugal—but that his wife died and he took another woman in common-law marriage? That was new to me. The story about his business trip to Madeira is quite fascinating, as well.
Columbus’s first trip to America, when he made the discovery that changed the course of history, is very well-known, but I had never read very much about his second, third, and fourth voyages. We found it fascinating that he never seemed to realize that he had discovered something totally new; till the end of his life he believed that he had nearly reached Asia and was frustrated to no end that he couldn’t find the strait which led to the Indian Ocean. His year marooned on Jamaica was especially hard to take—and I’m not sure I ever read anything about that before. (You won’t believe what the Spanish king did to Columbus’s crew after that year.)
The Benges have written another wonderful biography here. I recommend the Heroes of History series almost as highly as the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books. They are the same high quality stories.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults