Monday, May 20, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

The Renaissance Explorers with History Projects for Kids, by Alicia Z. Klepeis is part of the Renaissance For Kids Series from Nomad Press. Klepeis structures her work around chapter biographies of Niccolo de Conti, Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pero da Covilha, and Ferdinand Magellan in her focus on the lives of early European explorers.

An introduction, Exploration During the Renaissance, asks the question, “Why leave the comfort of home and family to strike out to new lands where danger might lurk?” Of course, there is the familiar answer, “Europeans were searching for a sea route to India and Asia.” But there were a number of other factors that influenced the timing of this exploration. Improvements in the technology of navigation, shipbuilding, and map making created better opportunities for success. European monarchs sponsored expeditions to expand empires, gain wealth, monopolize trade, and impose Christianity on indigenous people.

Each biographical chapter utilizes primary sources and a timeline to trace the life of an explorer and identify their contributions to the growing body of knowledge about exotic places and their people, culture, plants, and animals. Conti, a Venice merchant, self-funded his twenty-five-year-long expedition to Persia, India, Sumatra, and Borneo. He returned with information about the inhabitants as well as spices, animals, and geography. Dias was sent by King John II of Portugal to find a trade route to India. Dias was the first to sail around the Southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean before being forced to return home by his crew. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese navigator, built on the experience of Dias and became the first to sail from Europe to India. Covilha traveled to India and Ethiopia as an emissary of King John II of Portugal, successfully establishing a relation between Portugal and Ethiopia. Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world changed navigation forever by improving maps and establishing new trading routes.
As with the other volumes in the series, readers are challenged to ask questions and use critical thinking skills in response to a series of hands-on projects that are offered at the end of each chapter. Maps, photographs and illustrations highlight the subjects and provide historical context. Multiple text boxes offer additional facts, quotes, and insights on a variety of topics from the famous Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta to the use of an astrolabe for navigation. Calls to action are strategically placed throughout: Wonder Why? poses additional questions for consideration.  Connect contains QR codes for audio and video files. Words of Wonder directs readers to a multi-page glossary at the end of the book. Resources provides a list of books, videos, and museums for further exploration.

The book is well organized and the content expands on familiar facts and introduces readers to details that are often overlooked such as the cruelty that often accompanied the explorers in their encounters with people of other cultures or religions. The text and illustrations are richly detailed. The conversational tone and age-appropriate vocabulary is appealing.
Recommended for home and school libraries.

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