Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Young Pilgrims

Every family with young children ought to have a copy of Cheryl Harness' Three Young Pilgrims.

The first thing you'll probably notice when you open up this book is the detailed illustrations. For example, the first two page spread looks like an old world map, complete with the human-like faces of the four winds, mermaids, sea monsters - and, naturally, the Mayflower moving toward the New World. On another page, there's a cross cut of the Mayflower, showing all the rooms below deck and how people moved about in them. And throughout, Harness does a superb job of relating details about Pilgrim and Indian life through complex illustrations your kids will study over and over again.

The text is strong, too. It tells the novelized story of three real-life Pilgrim children: Mary, Remember, and Bartholomew Allerton. We see them on the Mayflower and witness the general excitement when the sailors call "Land ho!" We learn about the special agreement the Pilgrims wrote out (the Mayflower Compact, although the book does not tell us this is the document's name):
"They were there to build a colony 'for the glory of God' and in 'honor of our King and country.' Together they would be a 'civil body politic' making and obeying laws for the common good."
We learn the Pilgrims lived aboard the Mayflower while they built their homes, and that many on board the ship were ill and died - including Mrs. Allerton and her new baby. In the spring, when they finally move into their new homes, Mary witnesses her first Indian: a man named Samoset, who speaks broken English. He soon brings his friend Squanto, who speaks perfect English and helps the Pilgrims plant New World crops.

That summer, the harvest is bountiful and in the fall the Pilgrims decide to have a celebration to give thanks to God. "We will invite our Indian brothers to feast with us and offer prayers of thanksgiving to the Maker for a bountiful harvest," says governor William Bradford. During one evening of the celebration, while sitting around a large fire, Bartholomew asks, "Papa, are you happy we came to America?" After a moment, Mr. Allerton answers, "Your mother and I wanted to bring up our children where no king could tell us how to live and pray....We didn't know it would be so hard, but yes, I am happy." And although the children miss their mother, they acknowledge they will be fine, too.

The last few pages of the book help kids put this story into context. There's an illustration of the entire Plymouth village, a timeline of events surrounding the New World, a list of interesting things going on in the world at the same time the Pilgrims moved to North America, a two page spread about the "Saints" (Puritans), with a complete illustrated list of each one, an explanation of who the "Strangers" were, with a complete illustrated list of each one that crossed on the Mayflower, and an illustrated guide to notable Indians who worked with the Pilgrims.

What I Like: When my 5 year old opened this book, she gasped and was instantly drawn into the images (done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil). She's spent hours studying the pictures and asking me about the details in them. This book is just loaded with historical information! I also think it's the most thorough, interesting, and detailed book about Pilgrims for this age group.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 4 - 8, although even as an adult I get engrossed in the illustrations in this book.

Publishing Info: Simon and Schuster, 1995; ISBN: 978-0689802089; paperback, 40 pages, $7.99

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OR buy at for $5.99

Special Info: Visit the author's website for information about author visits and more.

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