Leif Erikson, the Viking explorer, is usually just briefly touched on in elementary school classrooms. But his rich story is a captivating one that any child – or adult – would enjoy. As a boy he moved from Iceland to icy Greenland, where his father established the continent's first settlement. Eric grew up learning how to sail ships, throw spears, and catch sea animals for dinner. He played with baby polar bears and dreamed of adventures.
As a young adult Leif sailed to Norway and charmed the king with a Greenland falcon on his fist and a bear cub at his side. The king granted him permission to explore the west (Leif's father had once seen a speck of something west of Greenland on an earlier exploration), and Leif became the first European to set foot in America (Canada) – 500 years before Christopher Columbus "discovered" it. Soon Leif's relatives settled in this new land – for a while – until, well, I won't give the whole story away, but let's just say they were chased off the new land and forced to hightail it back to Greenland.
As soon as I laid my eyes on this book I was blown away by the stunning art: the bold popping colors on some pages, the beautifully shaded black and white images on others, and the saturated details and texture that all of the illustrations enjoy. And then I found out the book was first published in 1941 by Doubleday, created by the bohemian husband-and-wife team Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, who wrote 27 illustrated books in all (many of them tales about Scandinavian heroes and mythology). Leif the Lucky is one of three of their books to be reprinted by University of Minnesota Press, and I now need to get my hands on the other two (Children of the Northlights and Ola).
Leif the Lucky, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire