Magellan’s 16th-century circumnavigation of the globe is told through the eyes of a ship’s dog in this latest installment of the middle-grade Dog Chronicles.
Originally unnamed, just prodded to catch rats on sailing ships, the dog Leo is wary of humans and resolutely a loner. Then he meets Marco, an orphaned Spanish boy who has stowed away on the Trinidad, Magellan’s flagship, as Magellan begins his historic voyage to find a westward passage to the Spice Islands (now the Malukas, in modern-day Indonesia). It is Marco and Pigafetta, an Italian scribe who is aboard to chronicle the voyage, who name Leo after the dog saves Marco’s life. Remarkably rich in factual details, Hart’s accomplished narrative, told in first-person present-tense by Leo, animates the hardships endured—and courage needed—to sail into the literal unknown, threading them throughout Leo’s personal journey of learning to trust. Montgomery’s spot pencil illustrations enliven the narrative. Of particular note, Magellan’s cruelty, arrogance, and thirst for glory are not whitewashed, as Leo describes him ordering the destruction of indigenous villages because they refuse to convert to Christianity or swear allegiance to King Charles of Spain. A lengthy author’s note gives the facts behind the story and is vividly interesting in itself as a chronicle of 16th-century European knowledge and shipboard life.
Frank history, attention to factual detail, and vivid adventures make this a standout. (bibliography, further reading.) (Historical fiction. 7-12)