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Who in the World Was the Forgotten Explorer? Review by Kelly Miller

The Story of Amerigo Vespucci
Lorene Lambert
Peace Hill Press
18101 The Glebe Lane
Charles City, VA 23030

From Peace Hill Press, the "books for the well trained mind," comes a series of biographies called Who In The World? that highlight the lives of some of the forgotten figures in history. We got the chance to look at The Story of Amerigo Vespucci, the true tale of a young man passionate to become an explorer and his journey as a great captain and discoverer. This 45-page soft-covered book was easy to read and had plenty of illustrations that can be colored by your first- through third-grade children.

The book begins with a look at Amerigo Vespucci's childhood in the city of Florence, Italy. As a young child, Amerigo is fascinated by astronomy, maps, and sea exploration. His uncle Giorgio spends years teaching Amerigo and in fact gave him the theory of westward exploration. His idea was that if one traveled west via the Atlantic Ocean, they would be able to find China much faster. This was unheard of back in the 1400s when normal trade and travel were accomplished via the "Silk Road," which required long and arduous navigation through Europe and Asia. At that time, most of the countryside was ruled by the Turks, who despised Europeans, so the Silk Road became very dangerous for most travelers. Searching for another passageway to China and India was almost a necessity, and Amerigo was passionate to find it.

Being a third-born son to Anastagio Vespucci, a wealthy aristocrat, meant that Amerigo had opportunities that most third-born sons didn't. At the age of 24, he had the opportunity to assist his uncle Giorgio, who was now ambassador to the King of France. Amerigo paid close attention to the way his uncle traded spices for sheep's wool and bartered for cedar wood. He was able to tell the character of a merchant and which months were the best to trade and sell certain goods. Two years later Amerigo was given the opportunity to become a banker. Through banking came the opportunity to build a shipping business. It wasn't long before this little boy, now a man, could see his dream fulfilled.

In May 1499 the King of Spain asked Amerigo to pilot one of his ships that was sailing westward. Just seven years after Christopher Colombus headed west and founded South America, Amerigo was on his way to confirm the findings. In fact, Amerigo Vespucci affected the world in a way most people do not realize. He not only helped inspire many others to pursue their dreams but also was the inspiration for the naming of both North and South America.

This is an endearing biography and story of dreams fulfilled that every child will enjoy hearing. Our family enjoyed reading this book, and the way it was written was so easy to understand. It is a story that is off the beaten path and not told in the regular classroom, yet full of vital historical information and depictions of life in the 1400s. It is a story with impact, heart, and hope. I highly recommend this book as an addition to your resource library and as a supplement to your history studies. This book would go well with the Story of the World, Volume 2: The Middle Ages (AD 400-1600), by Susan Wise Bauer, or similar curricula.

Product review by Kelly Miller, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2006