Sunday, January 9, 2011

DeFries, Cheryl L. Leif Ericksson

DeFries, Cheryl L. Leif Ericksson
Enslow 2010 112p 31.93
978-1-59845-126-9 ms/hs VG
Great Explorers of the World (Enslow)
Examines the life of Viking explorer Leif Eriksson, including his explorations, his discovery of North America, and his legacy in American history. For centuries, Christopher Columbus had received the credit for the discovery of America, even though there were other explorers before him: Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Lief Eriksson. As the text notes, the “American Indians were the authentic discoverers of North America….but Leif’s discovery…was the first known meeting between Europeans and the American Indians.” This biography of Eriksson presents evidence that leads historians to conclude that Eriksson has the prior claim to the discovery of America by Europeans via his settlement known as Vinland. The proof of the Viking’s settlement can be found at the village of L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada, where explorer Helge Ingstadd and his wife, Anne, an archaeologist, excavated an area of Newfoundland that bore a resemblance to Viking ruins in Greenland and Iceland. Carbon dating and artifacts determine the age of the ruins to date from 1000 A.D. From this opening chapter, readers are introduced in subsequent chapters to the discovery and settlement of Iceland, which provided shelter for Ericksson’s grandfather, Thorvald Asvaldsson when he fled Norway after committing murder. Asvaldsson’s son, Eric the Red, himself was also guilty of murder as an adult and banished from Iceland. Eric the Red took his son Leif to a land that had been sighted but not explored: Greenland. Fortunately for Ericksson, he did not inherit his ancestors’ hot temper but he did inherit their navigation skills and desire to explore. When Ericksonn heard from a wayward sailor of land to the west of Greenland, he decided to search for them, hoping that those lands would provide timber needed by Greenland settlers. The land that he discovered and settled in the summer of 1000 is present day Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to being a biography that chronicles the life and achievements of Erickkson, the reader is also introduced to the Viking culture and society. Color photos and illustrations are plentiful, chapters are substantial with paragraph headings. The narrative refers to Leif Ericksson by his first name, Lief, rather than by last name. This reviewer prefers the traditional last name form of address. One glaring error can be found on page 7 and page and again on page 68. Page 7 states: “Many scholars and scientists believe that Vinland is today’s village of L’Anse Aux Meadows” and page 68 reiterates the same statement. However, the official Canadian site for L’Anse Aux Meadows contradicts this. In answer to the question if L’Anse Aux Meadows is indeed Vinland, the website states “Although L'Anse aux Meadows is not Vinland as such - Vinland was a country, not a place - this site would have marked the entrance to Vinland, which probably extended to the St. Lawrence River and New Brunswick.” The official L’Anse Aux Meadows website is not included as a further resource in this title although it is included in the chapter notes. There is no reference on these pages for the statement that some historians believe L’Anse Aux Meadows is Vinland. Mis-statement on the connection between Vinland and L’Anse Aux Meadows keeps this book from being recommended for Books of Note. Zajko, Rosanne

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