Friday, October 17, 2008

Columbus and the Age of Exploration

The Theme: Exploration
I thought about using an obvious theme for October like Halloween or mystery but settled on exploration instead since Columbus Day falls in October. I couldn’t resist exploration since I can, with some creativity, place two of my very favorite books under that umbrella.

Mystery is also a strong pull, though, so if I’m really with it maybe I’ll manage to pull off both themes. We’ll see! In the meantime, on with exploration.

The Example
A strip of desert about twenty feet wide ran between the west patio wall of my childhood home and the chain link fence which marked the edge of our property.

We called that strip “The Jungle.”

For us, it was a jungle in the desert. Pungent creosote bushes grew thick and waved above our heads; in the middle, bushes once weighed down by a freak winter snow bent their tips together to form a shelter of sorts. A mulberry tree grew next to the shelter. Large, sloping branches sprouted from a thick trunk only a couple of feet from the ground. A small tree with dark, rough bark and long, twining leaves grew at the south end of the Jungle near a forever-locked gate.

We spent hours there, setting up house in the shelter, picking insect exoskeletons from the tree, examining small furry plants with purple flowers and yellow berries.

I learned in the Jungle that journeys long or short begin internally, with questions, and that if no far-reaching explorations move on our horizons, the familiar can be forever re-discovered.

The Book: Land Ho! Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration, by Nancy Winslow Parker
“We suffer from a disease that only gold can cure.”
-Hernan Cortes, quoted on title page

Starting with Christopher Columbus, discover the life and times of twelve explorers. Each explorer has a fun two-page spread with text, maps, pictures, and text boxes. My son, nine or ten at the time we purchased the book from Scholastic book orders, couldn’t put it down.,M1

Try the link above to preview the book.

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