From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—In 1527, Governor Pánfilo de Narváez sailed westward from Spain to explore the land that stretched between present-day Florida and Mexico, colonizing and conquering. With him, as his treasurer and sheriff, was Cabeza de Vaca. The men ran out of food, and Spanish ships failed to return for them. In desperation, they built five rafts and attempted to sail to Mexico. The survivors made it as far as Galveston. By this time, the governor was dead, and Cabeza de Vaca served as the commander. Eight years later, he returned to Spain, one of only four to live through the ordeal. He didn't bring the hoped-for gold, but he did return with a wealth of information, codified in La Relación, his account of his experience. Then, 475 years later, Lourie set out to follow Cabeza de Vaca's trail through Texas, using La Relación as a guide. This well-researched, beautifully composed book is the result. Using primary sources and period reproductions as well as the author's experiences and contemporary pictures, it highlights historical information within the context of current circumstances. Beautifully placed photos, reproductions, maps, and sidebars enhance the fluid text, making this title sound fare for augmenting American history units. Expanding and extending Stuart Waldman's more pictorial We Asked for Nothing: The Remarkable Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Mikaya, 2003), this volume is a worthy addition to most collections not only for its historical content but also for the way in which it demonstrates the processes historians use in their research.—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA
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As he did in volumes such as On the Trail of Sacagawea (2001), Lourie journeys in the footsteps of a significant historical figure. Conquistador Cabeza de Vaca arrived in the New World in 1528 as part of a Spanish expedition to explore and colonize the area between Florida and Mexico. One of only four survivors of early disasters, he came ashore near present-day Galveston and made his way westward into Mexico over eight years. Since the explorer’s actual path is disputed, Lourie consulted historians for advice before choosing his route through Texas; but a modern map indicating places that Lourie visited would have been helpful to readers. Illustrated with many period pictures and maps as well as clear, color photos, the book offers information about Cabeza de Vaca within a contemporary framework. Some students may be put off by the framework story, but those who persevere will find useful information as well as insights into a historian’s methods and disputes. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan
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