MODG 3RD GRD History: Substitutes for Christopher Columbus by D’Aulaire

MODG Hacks


Below is a sneak peak of a substitute book or two for the Mother of Divine Grace history readings in the third grade syllabus.  While the listed books are great choices, some may be expensive or even out of print.  I am trying to save money by finding adequate substitutes at my local library.

Week 5 of the Mother of Divine Grace 3rd grade syllabus calls for D’Aulaire’s Christopher Columbus as supplemental reading.  D’Aulaire’s biographies are wonderful and well worth the money.  If you would like a preview of the D’Aulaire books, see this post at Little Schoolhouse in the Suburbs. (This blog is indispensible to those of us who are new to MODG.)

Unfortunately, my local library did not have this particular D’Aulaire, and I decided not to pay the rather high price tag to buy it myself.  I did find an decent substitute in David Adler’s A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus.  Adler has many of these short biographies, some better than others.  His series is a good place to start if you are searching for replacements.

Columbus Adler

Now, Adler’s books are significantly shorter than D’Aulaire’s, so you are not going to get quite the in depth look as you would have.  I am okay with that concerning Christopher Columbus which is why I chose not to purchase the D’Aulaire.

Adler’s book is about 30 pages of this:

Columbus Adler 2

And since this is a lower reading level than the D’Aulaire book, your third grader could probably read it independently in one sitting.

I found that the treatment of events in this book was pretty fair, not overly glorifying Columbus nor making him out to be an evil tyrant.  There is so much debate about his moral character, and I imagine the truth is somewhere in between.  No need to dredge up all that drama with your little ones.  We focus on the adventure of setting sail and discovering new cultures.

Pedro's JournalSpeaking of adventures, an even better substitute is Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad. I did buy this one used for just a couple of dollars.  It is told from the perspective of a ship’s boy named Pedro.  While it is historical fiction instead of a biography, it contains plenty of information to supplement the main history text you are using.

I particularly like how Catholicism is seamlessly woven into the story.  The author doesn’t smack you over the head with it, but takes many opportunities to have the narrator think about Mass or talk about the Captain saying his rosary.  And there is a very good treatment of how these men still sin in their dealings with the Native Americans despite their obviously Christian theology.

Pedro’s Journal is a chapter book and will take a week or so to read aloud (in 20-30 minute chunks.)  It is also listed at a 5th grade reading level.  That seems like a generous level and I would say 4th sounds more accurate.  My third grader would be able to read it independently with a little help regarding names of people, places, and ships. We used it as a tea time read aloud and Ryan has really enjoyed it.  The drawings also add a lot to the story and we are learning quite a bit about sailing these old timey ships.  I would not choose this novel for a sensitive child.  There are a few events toward the end that could scare someone.

Pedro's Journal 2

I will be previewing several history books over the next year.  Keep checking in if substitutions are something you need.  A great way to not miss a post is to sign up for my Weekly Newsletter.


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We finished our first week of the new school year!  It has gone remarkably smooth.  We haven’t had a start this good since Kindergarten.  I hope that I have hit on a curriculum that suits us.  We are basing our studies off of the Mother of Divine Grace syllabus with a few embellishments and alterations.  So far it seems to be just the right amount of scheduled lessons and free time. … Keep reading…