Columbus - Ingri d'Aulaire

Ignorance really is bliss. Sometimes I wish I'd never wandered into the bizarre world of D'Aulaire's biographies. I grew up loving, no worshiping!, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. And then I finally got around to reading D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls and D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths and they were fabulous!


But.....then came Leif the Lucky.  It was rambling and weird and fairly offensive. I thought maybe it was a fluke.

There is no denying that Columbus is a controversial figure which can make him difficult to discuss with kids. But, I think black and white history is dull and a big part of why most kids dislike learning it. And to be fair, this book actually attempts some nuance. It goes into more detail than any picture book I've read about his multiple voyages and all the troubles that accompanied them - including how he was marooned for a year and how he tricked hostile native populations with his accurate prediction of a lunar eclipse. It is clear the D'Aulaires did a great amount of research in order to write this. For this, I think the book does have some value. However, the truly antiquated and disrespectful way in which native populations are discussed - with terms like 'heathens', 'savages', and 'red skins' bandied about regularly - makes me extremely uncomfortable. Likewise, the illustrations are pretty offensive. There are more issues, but I really don't feel like going into all of them here and now.

This book was published in the 1950s so none of this is really surprising, but it's particularly disappointing that this book still seems to be the standard Columbus biography shared with children. Something like Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus which avoids controversy altogether is actually preferable to this.