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The World of Columbus and Sons Review by Jill Hardy

Beautiful Feet Books
1306 Mill St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

I love Genevieve Foster's books. I love her use of rich language and the gift she has for making history come alive. Her trademark "horizontal" approach to history (examining world events during the lifetime of one person) really puts things into perspective.

The World of Columbus and Sons is one volume in the series of "World of" books by Foster. (Other titles are The World of Captain John Smith and Augustus Caesar's World.) It serves as both an intriguing biographical look at one man, Christopher Columbus, and a marvelous synthesis of several other important personages and events during the years 1451 to 1539.

This is a chapter book, and it is divided into four parts. The seemingly simple and whimsical illustrations are revealed to be, upon closer inspection, very helpful illustrations of the history you're reading. There are several helpful maps, a few family trees (invaluable if you have a hard time keeping the Plantagenets straight), and two-page spreads that recap the events and people you've read about.

Another plus, for me is the evenhandedness with which Foster strives to portray her subjects; there are several anecdotes that illustrate the strong Catholic faith of Isabella of Spain, but the author does not gloss over her expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Mohammed II, sultan of the Ottoman Turks in the year that Columbus was born, is shown to be both a ruthless conqueror and a serious scholar who afforded Christians equal rights in his empire.

The World of Columbus and Sons was written over fifty years ago, and it features the elegant prose and intelligent phrasing that characterize many older books. Although I think it is well rounded for a book of that time, a modern parent would probably want to flesh out its presentation of non-white, non-Western cultures with more in-depth looks at the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

If I could think of any other potential drawback, it would be the sheer amount of information that the book contains. It's thick with dates, names, and details that would probably overwhelm very young children. Beautiful Feet Books lists the reading level for this book as Advanced, meaning 7th grade and up, and I agree, for the most part. However, a history-loving child who is also a strong reader might enjoy it at a younger age.

Genevieve Foster's "World of" books do a great job of teaching history, and The World of Columbus and Sons is no exception. This is a wonderful book that gives a fascinating view of Renaissance/Reformation-era life.

Product review by Jill Hardy, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2007