Monday, September 05, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: On the Texas Trail of Cabeza de Vaca

On the Texas Trail of Cabeza De Vaca Peter Lourie

There's a subset of children's nonfiction where a large part of the book is less about the result of research and more about the process of the research. Scientists in the Field does this and it's part of what made Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry so awesome.

On the Texas Trail is about Lourie's attempts to retrace the journey of Cabeza de Vaca, a conquistador who was shipwrecked near Galveston, walked across Mexico to the Pacific and then back inland before hitting Mexico City, where he was able to get a ride back home to Spain. Throughout his travels, de Vaca was dependent on the Native Americans he met along the way. He learned many of their langauges and grew to respect them as people equal to Europeans.

There are competing theories on the route de Vaca took. Lourie very briefly discusses this, and very briefly discusses which path he thinks is the right one, and why. And then he very briefly discusses how he visits some points on that path to try to match them up with de Vaca's writings of his journies.

Overall, it was just too short to adequetely cover de Vaca, the scholarly controversy of the path of his journey, and Lourie's travels. I wanted and neede dmore. However, I really appreciate Lourie's honesty in his failures. He spends a large amount of time searching for a canyon of pine trees-- this canyon being on the key pieces of evidence. And he comes and sees and leaves. Only he didn't actually see what he thought he saw:

I was like the conquistadors blinded by their desire to find gold. I had seen what I wanted to see. In my desire for historical discovery, I had made pine trees out of cedars.

Roundup is over at Playing by the Book.

Book Provided by... the publisher for 2009 Cybils consideration

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1 comment:

Playing by the book said...

A bit of history completely new to me - thanks for the introduction!