Title: The Pilgrims of Plimouth
Author: Marcia Sewall
Illustrator: Marcia Sewall
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction
With Thanksgiving just around the corner--or the day after tomorrow--I thought it might be fun to read a couple short Thanksgiving books. The first on my list was an old favorite called The Pilgrims of Plimouth, which is written by Marcia Sewall from the perspective of the pilgrims. Sewall takes on the voice of these wanderers and describes not only their reasons for leaving England, their journey, and the infamous feast (actually, feasts), but also the daily lives of these colonists and the hardships they faced.
Though Sewall has created a lovely picture book with illustrations that are soft and lovely, the colors bringing New England and Autumn to mind, the text is much more adult than one might imagine. At times, you could suppose Sewall had tracked down a pilgrim and interviewed them, then simply rewrote what he or she had to say and sent it off to the publishers. The vocabulary, cadence, and diction seem very authentic. That said, it would be a difficult book to read to a young child. The information given could be perceived as a bit dry unless you're interested in this sort of stuff and could be hard for a younger child to access.
Considering how jumbled the myth of Thanksgiving has become over the years and how those who are aware of the tawdry past the first colonists of this country have with the Native people, it can sometimes feel strange to celebrate a holiday that commemorates a people who soon attempted to annihilate another. This book gives a rather accurate description of these pilgrims, what happened during the first "thanksgiving" and how the pilgrims led their lives. It is much less about the myth than it is about who our nations ancestors were more or less down to an individual level rather than a larger, more ideological level. One may read this book and think less about Native Americans being forced from their lands as well as not being led into the belief that the pilgrims were perfect and had this one fantastic day in history.
Comparable Reads: I honestly can't think of any right off the top of my head. I suppose a good companion to this book would be 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, which I will have a review of shortly. The two books are not all a like, beyond subject, but they sort of overlap nicely.
Who this book is for: I feel like this might be a nice family book to have. Mom and Dad can walk their children through the book to help tackle the somewhat difficult language. I also think it would be a nice addition to a fifth or sixth grade classroom during this Thanksgiving time of year. If you were to have your students do a sort of origins of Thanksgiving project, this would be an excellent source to draw from. Sewall cites and uses sources in the writing of the book, so you can be fairly certain that though it's classified as fiction, the information is pretty accurate.