Thursday, October 14, 2010

Almost Home

Adventure. Persecution. Danger. Death. Victory. The true story of the Pilgrims, as fictionalized in Wendy Lawton's Almost Home, was all this and more. Mary Chilton (who was a really Puritan who came over on the Mayflower) takes the long journey to the New World with her parents, leaving behind several of her siblings and friends. She's not pleased to leave Holland, despite the fact that her father is stoned and injured by young Dutch boys. She hates being ripped away from home, yet she follows her parents obediently.

Lawton's novel covers all the important aspects of the Mayflower's crossing, from the leaky Speedwell, to a desperate attempt to keep the Mayflower afloat, to the rife, illness, and death that accompanied the Puritans on their Mayflower voyage. Mary Chilton witnesses all these things, and her parents are among the losses on board the ship.

Mary's journey continues to parallel the familiar Pilgrim tale. She eventually moves off the Mayflower and into a widow's home. She experiences both the cold, hungry winter and the prosperous summer. She witnesses her first Indians: Samoset and Squanto. She recognizes Squanto as an instrument of God - an Indian who experienced slavery only to learn about God in Spain - and learn English in England.

But what makes Almost Home better than a history book is the personal history Lawton imagines for her. Mary learns that home is not a place. Home is resting quietly in the hand of God. Through Mary's trials and triumphs she learns God is the "great weaver" of life, and there is nothing so wonderful as trusting in him.

What I Like: This book is an excellent way to teach children the basics of the Pilgrims, their perilous journey on the Mayflower, and their difficult life in the New World. I also appreciate that Lawton covers some of the newly-controversial topics regarding the Pilgrims. For example, she shows Mary and her friends fearful of the Indians, thinking they must be violent barbarians - but at the same time wondering if the could be "simple and pure." One friend concludes the truth about the Indians must be somewhere in the middle. Later, when a group of exploring Pilgrims take corn seeds from a vacant Indian camp, the author shows how some of the Puritans were troubled by the stealing and how some rationalized the theft as a provision from God. Most of all, I enjoyed Mary's journey from an infant-like Christian to a more mature Christian.

What I Dislike: My only complaint is that throughout the book some words are placed in italics. This makes me want to emphasize them as I read, but really the italics are only an indication the word is in a glossary in the back of the book. The glossary is a great idea, but I find the italics annoying.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 8 - 12.

Publishing Info: Moody, 2003; ISBN: 9978-0802436375; paperback, 160 pgs., $6.99

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Special Info: Read our reviews of other books by this author. Also, you might like to visit the author's website for free bookmarks and for information about dolls that go along with the author's books.

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