Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Magellan and the First Voyage Around the World

Magellan and the First Voyage Around the World

Nancy Smiler Levinson
For ages 12 and up
Clarion Books, 2001   ISBN: 0395987733

It must have seemed like a dream come true for Ferdinand Magellan when on September 29th 1519 he at last set off from Spain to begin his long awaited for voyage. Magellan had come up with the idea of seeking a passage to the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) by going west instead of east. Up until this time sailors and traders had got to the Spice Islands by going down the coast of Africa, around the horn and across the Indian Ocean to get there. It was a long, dangerous journey and one which Magellan himself had made when he worked as a crew member on a Portuguese ship.

Magellan's experiences as a sailor had taught him much about sailing and he had also become an expert navigator. It was these skills which prompted him to believe that he could find a route to the Spice Islands by going west across the Atlantic. Surely, he thought, there had to be passage going that way that would get him to the ocean which lay on the other side of the New World, the Great South Sea as it was called then. This ocean, the Pacific, was new territory for the Portuguese and Spanish sailors and navigators. It was an unknown quantity, but Magellan was determined to find a way, a shorter way, to the Spice Islands.

Being Portuguese and having served the Portuguese king, Manuel, Magellan tried to get the king's support for his new venture. Unfortunately King Manuel had taken a strong dislike to Magellan and refused to sponsor the expedition. So, Magellan went to the young king of Spain and got support there. Needless to say King Manuel of Portugal was livid when he heard about this and he set about finding ways to sabotage Magellan's journey.

The journey turned out to be one of the most arduous and most dangerous ever made. It was destined to become of the most famous, for one of the ships in Magellan's fleet, the Victoria, became the first ship to circumnavigate the globe arriving back in Spain in 1522. Unfortunately Magellan was not on the Victoria; the visionary sailor had been was killed In the Philippines in 1521.

The author of this very well researched book had created a work which is a fitting tribute to a man whose name is often not included in the role call of great explorers. The reader is able to see 'first hand' how Magellan grew up to become the kind of man who could conceive of, and then set of on, one of the most difficult journey's ever made.