cover image A LONG AND UNCERTAIN JOURNEY: The 27,000-Mile Voyage of  Vasco da Gama

A LONG AND UNCERTAIN JOURNEY: The 27,000-Mile Voyage of Vasco da Gama

Joan Elizabeth Goodman, , illus. by Tom McNeely. . Mikaya, $19.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-9650493-7-5

Hewing to a format similar to her Beyond the Sea of Ice, Goodman recounts Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama's epic journey of 1497–1499. The first European to sail around Africa to India (known for precious spices), da Gama risked not only natural perils like storms but also attack by unfriendly Muslims. Although the voyage produced little in the way of goods and treasure, it was to have broad implications politically and economically, as an afterword makes clear. The author's thorough research is evident throughout, both in the detail she packs into the text as well as in her ability to knit the proceedings into a broad historical context. However, her prose never rises above the workmanlike ("How strange and frightening these unwashed, hairy, overdressed Portuguese must have looked to the Hottentots, the tribe of that region"), and the vast stretches of uninterrupted type may leave some readers at sea. McNeely's (Despite All Obstacles: LaSalle and the Conquest of the Mississippi) panoramic watercolors help enliven things, as does a handsome layout that includes black-bordered pages and short sidebars with entries plucked from da Gama's own journal. A gatefold map allows the audience to follow the outbound and return voyages while reading along. A solid, if somewhat unimpassioned, presentation. Ages 8-18. (June)