Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Journey to the New World:The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, 1620

A Journey to the New World:The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, 1620

Kathryn Lasky , Kristiana Gregory
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 to and up
Scholastic, 1996   ISBN: 978-0590502146

Remember, or Mem, is setting out on an extraordinary voyage. Mem and her family have been trying to find a place to call home for some years. Practically driven out of their native England because of their religious beliefs, the Whipples and other families like them settled in Holland for a while. Then it was decided that a fresh start in a country that was completely free was what was needed.

Thus it is that Mem, her mother, her father, and her little sister are travelling to the New World in a little ship called the Mayflower. The ship is very small and horribly uncomfortable and very soon the conditions are dreadful for everyone. Like so many of the other passengers poor Mem gets seasick. She desperately tries to keep up her spirits, confiding her inner most thoughts to her diary. Through her words Mem reveals that she is a funny, generous, and brave girl.

Conditions steadily get worse as people get sick and start to die. What is even harder to bear is that even after the Mayflower arrives off the coast of the New World, the passengers are not allowed to leave the ship at once as they wish to. Instead they must all wait until a suitable spot for a settlement is found. The settlers, who have come to call themselves "pilgrims," discover that they have not arrived in the land called Virginia. Instead they are much further north. Still, they are determined to begin their new lives in this new place.

Even after they began to build their homes and plant their crops, the pilgrims face great hardship and many of their number die. Mem does her best to cope with the loses, trying not to think too much about her former life in Holland.

We are left in no doubt that Mem and the other pilgrims suffered great hardship, some of which could perhaps have been avoided if the expedition had been planned better. We cannot help pitying these people who are desperate for a life of peace and who are in many ways so ill-equipped for the task ahead of them. And yet, the settlement does survive, and over time the pilgrims and their families begin to prosper.

Kathryn Lasky does a masterful job in showing us what this journey must have been like, paying great attention to the details. This makes it very easy for us to ‘experience’ this great adventure from the comfort of our chair and to appreciate what the early immigrants to America must have been like.