"The last thing he wanted to do was discover a new world," says Fritz, explaining that in those days it was more prestigious to find fabled old ones--the kingdom of Prester John, the China of the Great Khan, the gold-laden Japan of Marco Polo's tales. . . or the Garden of Eden, which Columbus "finally realized" he had discovered on the northern coast of South America. "Until the day he died," Fritz reports, Columbus "refused to revise his geography, although by this time others were questioning [that he had reached the Indies]." Before his voyages began, she notes, "most people agreed that the world was round"--thus puncturing, for those who haven't heard, that old grade-school myth of Columbus as wise before his time. This relatively straightforward biography, then, is characterized by the same gentle debunking that Fritz has perfected--but, Columbus being a less likable sort, this is without the filial fondness she retains for the foibles of our Founding Fathers. Here children will hear of Columbus' poor leadership, and of his more shocking shipments home of Indian slaves in lieu of the gold he never found. As always, the book has an inviting, unimposing look, and Tomes complements the writing with her own touches of wit and general spirit.