In reading about Columbus over the last few days, I’ve come across this sentiment more than once: Every school kid knows the story of Columbus. That got me to wondering what school children might really have known about Columbus back in the
crappy olden days.
The Book of Knowledge: The Children’s Encyclopedia was first published by The Grolier Society, Inc. in 1923. I have 19 of the 20 volumes in the 1954 edition. (Sadly, I am missing volume 20, the Index.) It is not organized as a grown up encyclopedia. Rather, each volume has the same major sections– “The Earth,” “Wonder Questions,” “All Countries,” “The United States” (or Wells’s ‘nationalist blinkers‘), “Famous Books,” “Men and Women” and so forth. Within each volume, the section articles revolve– as much as is possible– around a theme(s). For example, the “Men and Women” section of Volume 1 is sub-titled “Men Who Made the World Known,” and “The Earth” section contains articles on “The Big Ball We Live On,’ etc. All in all, it seems to me that The Book of Knowledge is the sort of thing a kid– not a little kid, but a kid who could read reasonably well by 5th grade or so– could sit down with on a rainy Saturday and amuse him or herself exploring the world.
I found “Men Who Made the World Known”engaging. (And I am smarter than a 5th grader!) It tells the story beginning with Leif Ericson,
|focuses on Marco Polo and his book,|
and does not leave out the unpleasantries of Columbus’s later life:
It was well that Columbus had his hour of glory and triumph then, for he was to have many unhappy hours and many misfortunes later on. Some people became jealous of him, and plotted against him. Sometimes, he made mistakes which brought trouble upon himself and others.
What great stuff!
Happy Columbus Day, y’all!