Title: Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?Who Was Ferdinand Magellan
Author: Sydelle Kramer
Illustrator: Elizabeth Wolf
Pages: 105
Recommended Ages: 9-14
Star Rating: ★★★★★

I love buying biographies from a series. So far I have a passel of books from the Childhood of Famous Americans biography series, and I also have a few from The Story of Biography Series. But I really like the format of the Who Was? series. More about that after the mini bio. :)

His Life.

Nobody is quite sure when Ferdinand Magellan was born. It seems likely that it was somewhere around 1480. The country of his birth – Portugal – and his position in life – that of impoverished nobility – are more knowable. In fact, although he was born on a farm, at the age of twelve Magellan was sent to the Portuguese court to act as a page for Portugal’s Queen! This put Ferdinand in a position to meet many powerful men and have his heart inflamed with stories of noble conquest.

One of the most pressing concerns during Ferdinand’s day was the Spice Route. For eight hundred years, the Arabs had controlled Europe’s access to the spices of Asia. The Arabs took advantage of this monopoly and charged inflated prices for the already valuable spices. And so the question raged – Is there another route to the spices?

Magellan believed there was – and he believed that he could find it! But the King and Queen of Portugal chose to mock his ideas and deride his person. They refused to fund his expedition.

Stung by betrayal, Magellan decided that his loyalty to Portugal was in no way deserved – so he traveled to Spain and made his same offer to the King there. His plan was accepted, and steps were taken to launch the expedition!

A year and a half later, Magellan sailed out of a Spanish port, the commander of five ships. It would take years, but eventually Magellan would find a passageway to Asia through the Pacific Ocean. He would also die on the voyage.


Magellan’s death occurred when a island chieftain refused to convert to Christianity and Magellan decided to physically subdue the people and force them to be come “Christian”. He died in the attempt.

Although elsewhere, Ms. Kramer had treated Magellan’s religious beliefs with neutrality, here she comments,

“Ferdinand Magellan is famous for being  a great seaman, a brilliant navigator, and a bold explorer. He was also a murderer and an intolerant man. His religious beliefs had to be everyone else’s beliefs. But his actions were typical of his time.” [pg. 102]

This would be a great starter for discussing tolerance vs. intolerance, and what true conversion looks like.

I loved the little boxes included every few pages or so which described either notable historical events which occurred during Magellan’s life or other famous personalities from his life span. They really helped give perspective to the biography.

Conclusion. A good resource for explorer-ish children. I liked this book better than either Henry Hudson, or Samuel de Champlain, but all three are good. [Also read Trial by Ice and Mystery on Everest.]

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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