When Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in 1492, many people doubted that he would ever make it back to Europe. To Europeans of that day, the idea of crossing the Atlantic Ocean was the dream of a madman. But with a pioneering spirit unmatched in history, Columbus went forth with confidence. He refused to turn back even when his crew threatened mutiny. I know that young readers will enjoy reading this exciting story behind Columbus’ voyages, which launched the European settlement of the Americas.
[signed] Isaac Asimov
One’s first inclination is to believe that the last thing the world needs is yet another biography of Christopher Columbus for young children. Fortunately, this one is by Isaac Asimov, and so it represents a genuine contribution to this bloated branch of literature.
Asimov does two very important things with this book. First of all, he makes it clear that the common myth is wrong: Columbus was not the only person who believed the world was round. All the educated classes knew the world was round; the controversy was what its diameter was and whether or not sailing west from Spain to Asia was practical.
Secondly, he carries the story on from the discovery of the New World. Columbus’ ambition and his failures as a governor are pointed out. At the same time, Asimov avoids denouncing Columbus as an evil villain because of his character flaws. The Columbus Asimov paints is, like most of us, neither wholly sinner nor wholly saint, and the result is a well-balanced account of a man whose determination changed the world, old and new.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the adult in me really wants to read this book again. It’s a children’s book, and have the children read it. An adult might want to read it once, but that’s about as much as is necessary.