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Book Review: Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

Pilgrim StoriesPilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Scholastic

middle grade, Thanksgiving

This title takes readers from the religious oppression the Separatists faced in England under King James to Holland to that incredibly difficult first winter in Plymoth to the treaty reached with Massasoit to the three-day long feast after the Pilgrims’ first harvest, the event that is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving”.

As a parent, I struggle with how to talk to my children about those beginning days of our country’s history. So often we “whitewash” these stories for children leaving false ideas about the roles the English played. I really appreciate Howard Zinn’s People’s History to give a more balanced view of our country’s history. The pilgrim story is one of our less horrific moments as both people’s desperately needed to find a friend in each other for their own survival. Perhaps that is why we focus on this story over others.

Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories does a good job of giving an accessible overview of the Pilgrim story from oppression, their dark hardships and fight for survival, and the support they received from the Native Americans of the region. Unfortunately, readers are not given any insight into the point of view of the native population. We do get that the Pilgrims had heard stories of the Indians being savage (without any information as to why they would need to fight against an invasion of their land) and cruel, but that they are surprised to find that they can work with them. At times the narrative complained too much about “having too many Indian mouths to feed” and could have spent more time on the fact that they would have all died if they had not been taught how to farm, fish, and hunt by the Wampanoag.

This seemed a decent and accessible historical retelling of how this group of pilgrims came to America, learned how to live in a new world, and how their coming changed the land and people already living here. It can certainly be a jumping off point for discussion on the disease Europeans brought with them which killed the Patuxet and how the “friendly” relationship between the pilgrim and native people’s was not typical of the time.

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