cover image Around the World in a Hundred Years

Around the World in a Hundred Years

Jean Fritz. Putnam Publishing Group, $18.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22527-7

Noted biographer and historian Fritz ( Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt ) offers a wickedly funny look at 10 explorers who, between 1421 and 1522, ventured into what contemporaneous mapmakers called the Unknown. While presenting the salient facts, Fritz approaches them with playful irreverence; accordingly, the frequently traveled material can seem refreshingly new. Discussing Amerigo Vespucci, she writes, ``Some give him credit for recognizing a continent when he saw one. Others call him an out-and-out faker.'' This tone proves especially effective when Fritz addresses such problematic issues as the treatment of native people and the often accidental nature of many of the discoveries. Reflecting the humor of Fritz's text, Venti's lighthearted black-and-white drawings use subtle strokes, as in a picture of Balboa, heavily in debt, stowed away on a ship and peering out from the barrel he'd hidden inside. Readable, attractive maps begin each chapter, providing useful visual references for each voyager's route. Ages 7-11. (Mar.)