Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

1607: A New look at Jamestown

1607: A New look at Jamestown

Karen Lange
Photographer: Ira Block
For ages 8 to 12
National Geographic, 2007   ISBN: 978-1426300127

Very often, when you try to look back hundreds of years you get one picture, one point of view of a time and a place. This is very much the case when one considers the story of Jamestown, the first English colony to survive in the New World. Often we hear about “the starving time” and about how John Smith tried to get the gentlemen settlers to work harder – that the men were lazy and because of this the settlement suffered. We hear about how the Indians attacked Jamestown, and how many of the settlers died. In this book the author takes a closer look at what took place at Jamestown. She puts the Jamestown experience in context and thus shows her readers that though it was a costly and painful experiment, it did nevertheless give birth to something bold and new.

There can be no doubt that many of the settlers who came on those three ships were indeed ill equipped for the job that lay ahead of them but the site that they choose for their settlement was singularly unsuitable. There was no fresh water and there is plenty of evidence to indicate that poor and contaminated water probably killed many of the people at Jamestown. As did malaria and other diseases. Food was also a problem and the settlers had the misfortune of being in the area during the worst drought in centuries. Though they had items to trade with the Indians for food, there simply wasn’t enough food to go around.

So it would seem that perhaps these men and boys from England were not as incompetent as we thought they were. They also were not as peaceful and friendly. There is plenty of evidence that both the Indians and the English were violent towards one another. At the same time there were also times of peace when Indians lived in Jamestown and when settlers lived in the Indian villages. So, as we search through the archeological sites, as we take samples from trees, and as we look back in time, we discover that the Jamestown story was much more complex than we thought. It is certainly a story full of loss, but it is also a story of survival and determination.

Written with great thought and carefully researched, this excellent title offers readers a new look at the story of Jamestown, offering up new information about the settlement, its people, and the Indian tribes that lived in the area around it. Full of superb annotated photographs this is yet another National Geographic title which brings history to life.