Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In twelve chapters, Nina Brown Baker sketches Amerigo Vespucci’s life from age twelve in Peretola, Italy, to his death forty-nine years later in Seville, Spain. Through third-person narration, Baker puts in chronological sequence the major events that led Vespucci to be the man with the knowledge to perceive what Christopher Columbus and others did not know—that, in sailing west, they had come to a vast, unknown continent.

The first chapter of Amerigo Vespucci establishes the young boy’s interest in charting the constellations. An incident also establishes his natural ability in business. In the second and third chapters, two of Amerigo’s uncles help him become both scholar and businessman. By the fourth chapter, the adult Vespucci is a Medici representative in the import-export trade in Seville. In this position, Vespucci, in chapter 5, meets Columbus, who comes to Vespucci’s company to outfit seventeen ships for his second voyage to the land that he believes is India. As Columbus leaves Spain for Hispaniola (now called Haiti), Vespucci is urged to come along but refuses.

In the sixth chapter, Vespucci is asked to investigate rumors of Columbus’ cruelty as royal governor of Haiti. Vespucci sets forth on his first voyage to the land believed to be the Asian continent in 1499. The next three chapters recount Vespucci’s explorations along the coast of what would become known as South America. Vespucci studies the changing...

(The entire section is 498 words.)