Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus, August 3, 1492-February 14, 1493

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

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Book: Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus, August 3, 1492-February 14, 1493

Author: Pam Conrad

Illustrator: Peter Koeppen

Publisher: Scholastic, republished 1992

ISBN-13: 978-1878093172 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 1878093177 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0590462068 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0590462067 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Conrad, PamPedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus, August 3, 1492-February 14, 1493 (Published in 1991 by Boyds Mills Press Inc., a Highlights Company, 910 Church St., Honesdale, PA  18431; republished in 1992 by Apple Paperbacks, a trademark of Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY  10003).  Young Pedro de Salcedo can read and write better than any boy in the small Spanish town of Palos, so the Captain General Christopher Columbus signs him on as one of three ship’s boys for part of his crew of the Santa Maria.  Pedro keeps a diary of his adventures in Columbus’s company on that famous 1492 journey to the “Indies,” recounting in his journal the adventures and dangers he encounters on the trip and recording sketches of the sights that he sees during the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic.  What happens to Pedro?  How is he treated when he accidentally grounds the ship on a reef?  Will he ever make it home?

Award-winning author Pam Conrad’s interpretation of a now-500-year-old journal and illustrator Peter Koeppen’s atmospheric and graceful pencil sketches provide a thrilling and believable re-creation of one boy’s account of this epic voyage, presented in an interesting way.  The biggest complaint that I noticed is the feeling that the story is extremely biased against Columbus.   While he is not necessarily pictured as the greedy, pillaging, raping, exploitative conquistador which the modern white-bashing, anti-Western left considers him, he is depicted as a moody, petulant, cranky man who engages in fiery rages one minute and penitent Hail Marys the next.

While Pedro, who acknowledges that he was hired on not for his seamanship, but for his ability to read and write, admires  Columbus, he feels sorry for the natives they take on board and is uncomfortable with the explorer’s condescending treatment of the Indians, in particular, allowing these people to believe that the Spaniards are deities.  The author states that she is not a historian but a storyteller, so one wonders if we should take this as an accurate representation.  In many books Columbus is depicted in a consistently negative light with no real redeeming qualities.  The man wasn’t perfect, but he was a great historical figure who deserves better treatment than he often gets.

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