Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sarah Morton's Day

Until time travel machines are invented, Kate Waters' Sarah Morton's Day is probably the best way for you and your kids to get a good peek at what the life of a Pilgrim girl was like.

Filled with color photographs of re-enacters at the Plymouth Plantation museum (a reproduction of the original village), this book is written as though narrated by a real Pilgrim girl, aged 9. She begins by explaining why her family left England, then Holland, to come to the New World: to "seek freedom from the Church of England." Her father died their first winter in America, and now she has a new father. "I am learning to call him father," she says, "and am trying hard to earn his love."

Sarah shows us, step by step, how she dresses each morning and folds up her bedding. She walks us through her daily chores, including keeping the fire going, feeding the chickens, mucking the garden, milking the goats, pounding spices, preparing meals, fetching water, and cleaning the pots. Sarah also has moments of play, talking with and playing marbles with her friend Elizabeth. She is also fortunate to have the opportunity to do school work because her stepfather believes she has a talent for learning. Sarah shares her difficulty in memorizing Psalm 100.

We also glimpse her excitement that a friendly vessel is coming to shore; we see her eat with her hands, standing at the table; we see her crude little home-made doll; and in end notes, we learn more about Plymouth Plantation, the real Sarah Morton, and the little girl who portrays her in the book's photographs.

What I Like: The photographs by Russ Kendall make this book unique and more educational that what you might find elsewhere. Seeing "Pilgrims" in full color photos is a rare treat, and helps make them seem more real. I also appreciate that the author tried to keep the flavor of Pilgrim speech without bombarding us with too many "thees" and "perchances." Because she tells the story through Sarah - who wouldn't think to explain such terms as "muck" and "hasty pudding," I'm also thankful there is a glossary at the back of the book.

In fact, while some might wish there were more explanations within the main body of the book, I actually found this gave my preschooler and I lots of opportunity to discuss the things in the book long after we set the volume aside. For example, at one point Sarah mentions her mother is churning, and we see a photo of her in the midst of this task. However, since no explanation is given, my daughter and I discussed this at length on our own.
What I Dislike: Parents who aren't as interested in history as I am may have a slightly more difficult time explaining details in this book to their child.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 4 - 12.

Publishing Info: Scholastic, 1993; ISBN: 978-0590474009; paperback, $5.99

Buy Now at Amazon.com for $5.99

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