My America: Our Strange New Land, Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, Book One

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9780439112086: My America: Our Strange New Land, Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, Book One

Award-winning author Pat Hermes tells the story of Elizabeth Barker, whose family sails from Plymouth, England, to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609. This book helps to relaunch the My America series.

In May 1607, 3 ships sailed up the James River in Virginia. In the riverbank marshes, they made land and hung the flag--England's flag--establishing the first permanent English colony in Jamestown, Virginia. In 1609, the first ship carrying women and children arrived.

After 71 days at sea, nine-year-old Elizabeth Barker is thrilled to be on dry land. Lizzie keeps a journal for Caleb, her twin brother who stayed in England because of his weak lungs. In her buoyant entries,Lizzie tells of the abundant forests, trading with and learning from the Indians, and adventures with her new friends.

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Review:

Life in the summer of 1609 in the New World is strange for young Elizabeth, who has traveled with her family from England to Jamestown, Virginia. After the disastrous sea crossing, during which a hurricane destroyed or rerouted five of their nine ships, Elizabeth is happy to be on dry land. Her initial elation vanishes, however, when mosquitoes, steamy weather, rampant illness, and unrest between the Indians and the new arrivals threaten any hope of a peaceful settlement. To make matters worse, Elizabeth misses her twin brother, Caleb, and feels tremendous guilt because she took his sketchbook with her, and is now using it for a journal. But together with her parents, she begins to build a new life in the Jamestown settlement, befriending such 17th-century luminaries as Captain John Smith and 13-year-old Pocahontas.

The My America series presents historical events in a fictional setting. Award-winning author Patricia Hermes does an excellent job of developing the personality of the intrepid and irrepressible 9-year-old Elizabeth. Through a season of death and disease, confusion, and many thrilling adventures, spunky Elizabeth will hold the attention of every young reader. A historical note following the journal provides real-life Jamestown context for the story. (Ages 8 to 11) --Emilie Coulter

From School Library Journal:

Grade 3-5-Resembling the "Dear America" books (Scholastic), these titles are aimed at a slightly younger audience. In the first book, nine-year-old Elizabeth records her experiences as she, her family, and other colonists adjust to the harsh weather conditions, illness, endless hard work, and nascent social strata in the new land. In the course of three months, Elizabeth meets Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, Gabriel Archer, and George Percy. This is a quick, easy read. Hermes has created a sensitive main character and readers will empathize with her fears and emotions as she adjusts to her new life. In My Brother's Keeper, nine-year-old Virginia Dickens is left in the care of Reverend and Mrs. McCully while her father and brother help her uncle hide his horses from the Confederate raiders. Her journal documents the battle at Gettysburg and the horrors of war. After the battle, she and her father find her brother in a makeshift hospital. The novel ends as the town slowly recovers and Virginia hears President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Osborne successfully creates individual characters, and she poses difficult questions about war and the waste of human life. There is a lyrical quality to several passages, and the author slowly builds suspense and release. However, this book seems more fitting for older, more experienced readers, and the intended audience may have difficulty digesting some of the material. Fans of "Dear America" will enjoy it.
Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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