Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado

Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado

Marc Aronson
For ages 14 and up
Clarion, 2000   ISBN: 978-0395848272

It seemed that Walter Ralegh was either greatly admired, or greatly disliked. He was the kind of man who inspired strong feelings. Handsome, very intelligent, a gifted writer and poet, and incredibly courageous, Walter had big dreams and hopes. Perhaps more than anything he wanted to leave a legacy that would be remembered long after he was gone. An extremely ambitious man, Walter set about winning, and gaining, the confidence and affection of his queen. Queen Elizabeth could not help liking this brave and highly successful man who made a name for himself despite his humble beginnings. She gave her favorite many honors and made him a very rich man.

Walter took advantage of his relationship with the queen by getting her support to launch expeditions to the New World and then to South America. In her name Walter created a new settlement in Virginia. Unfortunately this grand gesture backfired when the settlement at Roanoke floundered and failed. After Walter’s highly successful involvement in the Spanish Armada crisis, Walter set out for South America determined to find the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. Unable to find the city a brokenhearted Walter came home empty handed to face a most displeased queen.

This was a pattern in Walter’s life. He had great successes which were then followed by spectacular failures. He was often rash, and he did not seem to know how to make friends and build alliances. His is a colorful story rich with great deeds and ultimate tragedy, which makes Sir Walter Ralegh a fascinating character to read about.

In this carefully researched book Marc Aronson paints a vivid picture for his readers of a man and also of that man’s times. We come to appreciate what it was like to live in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds when so much was changing and when great men fell in and out of favor from day to day.