Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Animals Christopher Columbus Saw: An adventure in the New World

Animals Christopher Columbus Saw: An adventure in the New World

Sandra Markle
Illustrator:  Jamel Akib 
Nonfiction Picture Book  Series
For ages 7 to 10
Chronicle Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-0811849166

Many of us know the story of how Christopher Columbus had a dream and how he pursued that dream until he was finally able to sail west from Spain in the summer of 1492. Columbus was looking for a westward route that would get him to the "Indies" where, it was hoped, he would find precious metals, spices, and silks. What many of us don't know about this famous story is that Christopher Columbus's adventures were greatly affected by a variety of animals.

On his journey across the Atlantic he and his men would have used cats to keep down the rat populations on their three ships. If they did not find some way to keep the rats down, the rodents would eat and destroy all their food supplies. As they traveled shipworms – a kind of clam – would have been drilling holes in their ships.

When the sailors reached the Sargasso Sea they thought that land had to be nearby because they saw so much wildlife. Unfortunately for them they still had a long way to go. And so they sailed on, seeing dolphins and even a whale as they traveled across the Atlantic.

Finally, on October 12th, 1492, Columbus' sailors saw land and they came to a place unlike any they had ever seen before. Not only did they meet native people, but they also saw all kinds of strange animals. Columbus was so taken with some Cuban parrots that he saw that he took a pair home as a gift for Queen Isabella.

Later that year one of Columbus' ships ran into the homes of a tiny species of marine animal, a coral reef. The ship was holed and sank soon after. Without the Santa Maria Columbus had to change his plans radically.

In this beautifully illustrated and carefully researched book the author not only tells the story of Christopher Columbus' adventures, but she also describes the animals that he would have seen, and, in many cases eaten, as he traveled around the Caribbean. Sometimes, as we go about our lives, we forget the animals that have an impact on what we do. This book shows readers how animals had a considerable influence on one part of human history.