by Pam Conrad
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Pedro's Journal, by Pam
Conrad, tells the tale of Pedro de Salcedo, a ship's boy aboard the Santa Maria,
who accompanies Christopher Columbus on the journey to find the new world.
Pedro's story is told in journal entries about the trip across the Atlantic and
the exploration of the Indies. Pedro sees Columbus as egotistical and
hot-tempered. He describes the native people as peaceful and unfairly
terrorized by the Spanish. This book is appealing for reluctant readers because
the characters, historical details, and plot are written in simple language. It is appropriate for students in grades 2-6.
We also have a printable version of this literature guide, for your convenience.
This book is a good example of the genre Historical
Fiction. Set in the period of 1492-1493 during the actual voyage of Columbus to
the New World, it weaves a fictional story around historical fact and research.
The author's note at the end of the book acts as a disclaimer for absolute
accuracy, as her purpose was to create fiction, but the book can serve as an
excellent vehicle for exploring facts from the time period. Before students
begin reading the book, make a big chart on a bulletin board with the following
categories: observations, questions, fact, fiction. As students read, ask them
to jot down interesting observations from the story onto sticky notes. Place the
sticky notes under the observation category. Ask students to formulate a
question for each observation they make and then do research to determine
whether the observation is fact or fiction and why.
Columbus is mean to people on the ship.
Was Columbus an egotistical, unpleasant person?
In fact, Columbus was a very egotistical and ill-tempered person.
Pedro is a ship's boy on the Santa Maria
Was there really a ship's boy named Pedro who acted as Columbus' confidant?
It is unlikely that Columbus would have confided in someone with such a low status on the ship.
A Sea of Words
This book is loaded with nautical terms. Be a word detective and make a list of the nautical
words used to describe and name ship parts and crew. Try to determine what the word means from
the context of the story. If you don't know what the word means, check it out in a dictionary.
Use your list of words to create a word search or crossword puzzle for your classmates.
Here are a few to get you started: captain, dock, fleet, ship's boy, dinghy.
The Pedro TimesImagine that you are Pedro
de Salcedo just returned from your seven month voyage. Write an article for the local
newspaper, giving a first hand account of some of your adventures. Include a drawing or two
of the strange things you saw on the voyage to the New World.
A Different Point of View
Imagine that you are one of the native people that Columbus meets on the
islands. Write an account of how the native person would view Columbus and his men and ships.
Use information from the book to support the native point of view.
Read Jane Yolen's Encounter, a fictionalized account of Columbus's
meeting with the Tanio people, written from the perspective of a Tanio child. Or
your students may read Morning Girl by Michael Dorris,
which deals with the Taino people immediately before Columbus lands on their island. Used together,
Pedro's Journal, Morning Girl, and Encounter may raise questions about the treatment of
indigenous people and how their lives were changed following their "discovery." Explore some
of the questions and issues of exploration and exploitation. Do the authors of these books
have different points of view?
21st Century Explorers
What are the new worlds left to be explored today? Columbus sailed, at
great risk, into the unknown to find fame and fortune. If Columbus lived today, what might
he be doing? Ask your students, if given the chance to be "Ship's Boy" on an exploration into
space, would they go? Why or why not?
Build a model of one of Columbus's sailing ships or make a drawing of one.
Do some research to find out the actual size and dimensions of the ship.
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