Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence, Esther Averill retells the story of Jacques Cartier’s three voyages to the New World, which resulted in the claiming of Canada for France. She relies chiefly on Cartier’s own narratives of his explorations. Because many historical documents exist that describe personages and events of the time, she also sketches a background to help young readers understand the beliefs, intrigues, and dangers that explorers risked in sailing into uncharted areas.

As the facts about Cartier center on his voyages, Averill organizes the book into three sections. She details each of the voyages, explaining Cartier’s course, the winds and tides that he encountered, the birds and animals that he sighted, and the peoples that he met. The illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky reinforce visually the information about sailing ships, Native American canoes, and wildlife. Most important, maps trace the various routes that Cartier sailed.

Averill portrays the selfish interest of the merchants of St. Malo, the French island off the north coast of France where Cartier was born, who opposed taking men and ships for exploration instead of using them for trade on known routes. Averill also describes the jealousy and greed in the competition for new discoveries, particularly after Spain and Portugal found gold in South America.

On the first voyage in 1534, Cartier sailed with two small ships to Newfoundland and then...

(The entire section is 464 words.)