Dreams of Discovery: A Novel Based on the Life of John Cabot

Written by Jule Selbo
Review by Viviane Crystal

Imagine being a child who falls in love with pirates, adventure, and seeing the world beyond one’s local city: Genoa, Italy. Giovanni Caboto is ten years old in 1460 when he, along with his ever-present brother and supporter, Piero, begins to make plans to see beyond the world of Europe all the way to China with realistic determination. Contemporary readers do not have to work so hard because of the ease with which Julie Selbo takes us into Giovanni’s merchant status and his rise to the challenge of getting an education in the politics, geography, navigation, science and global culture of the past, up to the present late 15th century.

He meets the young boy Christopher Columbus and buys a map from his brother. Mapmaking is in its raw days of formation, as are the rudders specifically depicting exploratory travels. Giovanni’s family prospers, and they gradually become respected members of Genoese business and society. Then a terrible storm, years after his father’s death, results in the loss of two ships, causing huge debt and forcing the family to escape to Catalonia. Gradually, Giovanni becomes respected as a civil engineer and builder who then pursues the financial support and royal permission to sail to the “New World.”

This occupies the rest of the story, including the exotic peoples, characteristics, and traits of the lands they discover. He thought this was China but in fact, these were the lands of the east coast of New England. The dreams of childhood fill John Cabot’s life with passion and growth, passed on to his own three children. Inspiring, intelligent, well-documented, exciting and memorable historical fiction.