MAGELLAN AND THE FIRST VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD

Nancy Smiler Levinson, Author . Clarion $19 (144p) ISBN 978-0-395-98773-5

This biography of Ferdinand Magellan, who in 1519 commanded the "most remarkable and perilous [voyage] in seafaring history," rarely captures the drama of its subject. Not only does the pageantry of the age of discovery elude the text, but the author frequently fails to explain and explore historical and cultural contexts. For example, the narrative offers simplistic commentary on the violent raping and pillaging of the Muslim city Kilwa during Magellan's first sea journey: "Such savagery is difficult to understand, but Christians saw no wrong in massacring people in those far-off regions." Discussions of technological issues, such as the inability to calculate longitude, do not convey the danger and hardship associated with them. Levinson (Christopher Columbus: Voyager to the Unknown) picks up some speed when she turns to Magellan's great journey (originally intended to find a westward route to the Spice Islands, not to circumnavigate the globe). She documents such developments as Magellan's need to renounce Portuguese citizenship to seek royal patronage in Spain, and the court intrigue that planted mutinous spies as captains of Magellan's accompanying vessels. On the whole, however, the treatment is only serviceable, unlikely to inspire awe or fire the imagination. Ages 9-14. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Children's
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