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Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad



Book Summary Novel Activities Vocabulary Words Writing Activities Discussion Topics Online Test




Book Summary


Pedro de Salcedo, a young Spanish boy, has the opportunity of a lifetime. He gets to be ship's cabin boy on the Santa María in 1492. He sets sail with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World. It sounds exciting, but why is Pedro so apprehensive? The fear of the unknown and his homesickness overshadow the thrill of being a part of this great adventure.

Pedro was selected to go on this historic voyage because he could read and write. He is asked to keep a journal for the captain, who is none other than Christopher Columbus himself. Pedro's journal spans the six month journey to the New World from beginning to end.

This biographical/historical fiction novel is completely written in journal format beginning on August 3, 1492 and culminating on February 14, 1493. The author's vivid descriptions allow the reader to feel like he/she is on board the ship. Pedro is a character with whom the reader can identify as he/she witnesses this historic journey through his eyes. Don't get seasick as you read this account of the discovery of America! A great time to read this novel is around October 12th when Columbus Day is celebrated.


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Novel Activities


1. Sequencing is an integral part of most novels. Pedro’s Journal is no exception. Select ten important events from the novel and create a timeline showing the date and the event.

2. Write an acrostic poem about Pedro de Salcedo’s adventure.

3. Columbus’s discovery was not celebrated during his lifetime. Many people in his day did not agree with his theories about the earth being round. It was not until three hundred years after his discovery that Columbus Day began to be celebrated. Columbus died not knowing how famous he would become. Do you think that Columbus’s first voyage was a success based on the novel Pedro’s Journal? Make a list of pros (good points) and cons (bad points) pertaining to his voyage. Which outweighs the other?


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Vocabulary Words


boatswain rigging crew tiller
mutiny fathom shrouds mariner
tawny scabbard cask renegade


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Writing Activities


Sensory/Descriptive: In the novel Pedro's Journal, Pedro made his first ocean voyage. He had many interesting experiences on this long journey. What did he see, hear, taste, feel, and smell on his westward journey to get to the East Indies? Using your imagination, as well as the novel's details, write a description of Pedro's journey across the Atlantic Ocean.


Imaginative/Narrative: Pedro's journey certainly had its ups and downs. The entire novel was written in journal format with Pedro narrating the events of each day. Pedro's journal spanned approximately seven months from August 3, 1492 through February 14, 1493. Put yourself in Pedro's place and predict what he might write in his journal one month after the novel's end. The date would be approximately the middle of March in 1493. You should include what his job might be, his thoughts about the journey, his reunion with his mother, and whether or not he will want to return with Columbus on his second voyage.


Analytical/Persuasive: During the voyage to America, Pedro was quite homesick for Spain as well as his mother, whom he left behind. He constantly pictured his mother waving good-bye to him as he sailed away. She was also saddened by his departure. They longed for the day when they would be reunited. Since Pedro could read and write, imagine what Pedro would have written in a letter to his mother. Put yourself in Pedro's place and write a letter to his mother to persuade her that everything is alright.


Practical/Informative: The discovery of the New World must have been BIG news in 1492. What do you think a news reporter would have reported on such an historic day as October 12, 1492? Imagine that you are a reporter who has arrived on San Salvador shortly after its discovery. You have also met an eyewitness named Pedro de Salcedo. On a separate piece of paper, write a news article of the event based on an interview with Pedro as well as your own observations. Use the six W's (Who? What? When? Where? Why? Wow!) chart below to assist you with your article. (The Wow is something amazing you find out!)


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Discussion/Journal Topics


August 3: “Perhaps I am a natural seaman, although I admit that looking over the side of this creaking ship into the swelling water can fill me with terror.”

October 12: “Out of respect, all waited while Christopher Columbus leaped out of the boat, his feet the first to touch this new land.”

December 16: “Before the chief left, he made it clear his island was ours and we had only to ask to be given whatever we need.”

January 28: “How wonderful this feels to be heading home.”


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Online Test


Your students can take an online test with immediate results at:

Pedro's Journal Online Test


The Professional Development Institute has a complete literature unit for this novel. For more information, click the link below.

Pedro's Journal Literature Unit (Check out the sample pages!)


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