Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hey Mr. Renaissance Drum Man

Hey all you guys out in blog land, it's Carl. Well, looks like we missed the chance to see me in a dress. Too bad, but I know you all are busy with school and tests and everything and it's hard to find time to write us. Hope you keep reading us, though, and get some of the books we recommend. Tell you what---why don't I give you all a consolation prize? I did have to put on a costume to advertise a Renaissance program. Let me show you that picture.
Pretty silly, huh? Just remember, guys, it could have been me in that dress!

Speaking of the Renaissance, let me clue you in on a couple of really good things I'm reading. I started these books to get ready for my program on Renaissance explorers, but, boy, are they exciting! The first is The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman. Let me tell you, this book is rightly called The Adventures of Marco Polo. What an adventure he had! Marco Polo was the first European to visit China and write about it. This was back when China was "far Cathay," a place of legend. Marco left home in 1269 (when he was 17) with his father and uncle on a mision from the Pope to visit the Great Khan, ruler of China. After spending three and a half years traveling thousands of miles and escaping sandstorms, bandits, and man-eating animals, they arrived on the border of China, where the Great Khan was waiting for them. What Marco saw there surpassed any legend he'd ever heard. His book about his travels surprised and rocked the European world so much that people called him "the man of a million lies." Some wonder even today if he made most of it up. Did he? Or did he tell the truth? Only way to know is to read this book!
The other book is Around the World In A Hundred Years: From henry the Navigator to Magellan by Jean Fritz. (illustrated by Anthony Bacon Venti) A couple of hundred years after Marco Polo returned from China, Europe was trading with the Middle East and China for spices and other goods, but it was getting too expensive and dangerous to use the overland route that he had used. So some brave explorers looked for ways to get there by sea. Yet most of the world to Eurpeans was the vast Unknown. Who was really brave enough to go there? And what would they really find? This book talks about the bold sailors like Ferdinand Magellan (first to sail around the world), Amerigo Vespucci (America was named after him), and many others including, of course, Christopher Columbus. Each story is like an epic sea voyage--incredible tales of hardship, endurance, and courage. Really exciting stuff.
And you know what? That Renaissance spirit of exploration goes on today. It took us to the moon and now we hear on the news sometimes about going to Mars. Will it ever happen? I don't know, but How To Live On Mars by Clive Gifford (illustrated by Scoular Anderson) would be good to read before we went. It's chock-full of interesting facts, funny illustrations, and science experiments (like how to make your own Martian soil). It's a good read about our neighbor in space.

OK, that's it for today. Hope to hear from you soon.
(PS--do you think there are any Sith or Jedi on Mars?)

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