cover image In 1492

In 1492

Jean Marzollo. Scholastic, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-44413-2

Thanks to the popular singsong verse ``In fourteen hundred ninety-two / Columbus sailed the ocean blue,'' the year in which Christopher Columbus weighed anchor may be history's best remembered date. Marzollo ( Pretend You're a Cat ) has expanded the ditty to include some basic details about the man and his voyage--``He sailed by night; he sailed by day; / He used the stars to find his way. / A compass also helped him know / How to find the way to go.'' The tale is surprisingly clear and complete, despite the brief and simple text. And it even manages to be ``correct,'' both politically (`` `Indians! Indians!' Columbus cried; / His heart was filled with joyful pride. / But ``India'' the land was not; / It was the Bahamas, and it was hot'') and historically (``The first American? No, not quite. / But Columbus was brave, and he was bright''). Only the names of Columbus's three ships--musical themselves--are missing. Bjorkman's lighthearted illustrations are top-notch--his oceanscapes are suitably sweeping, his ships imposing, his characters endearing in their naivete. (Some of his watercolors seem to pay homage to those of Edward Ardizzone.) This engrossing introduction to history for young children is a standout in the spate of books being produced to honor the 500th anniversary of the landmark voyage. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)