Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mayflower 1620: A New Look at the Pilgrim Voyage

Mayflower 1620: A New Look at the Pilgrim Voyage

Catherine O'Neill Grace, Peter Arenstam, Plimoth Plantation
Photographer: Cotton Coulson
For ages 12 to and up
National Geographic, 2003   ISBN: 978-0792261421

We are going to go on a journey on a small wooden ship called the Mayflower II and it is hoped that by sailing on her we will gain a better understanding of what it might have been like to sail on the original Mayflower which sailed in the summer of 1620 from Europe and which brought one hundred and two passengers to what is now the state of Massachusetts.

As might be expected many myths have arisen about this voyage. For one thing the passengers are described as being a united group of "Pilgrims." In actual fact the people did not travel as one group with a common cause. There were the Separatists or Puritans led by William Bradford who were seeking a land where they could practice their form of Protestantism in peace and safety. Others simply wanted to own some land of their own or wanted to live in a place where hard work and not class decided how well a man did in life.

There is no doubt that the journey was hard and even if we are not forced to stay on Mayflower II for months (as those on the first Mayflower were) we can appreciate that it would have been crowded, dangerous, frightening, and uncomfortable.

Once the passengers arrived they discovered that they had landed north of their expected landfall. In addition, when they found a Native American settlement, they took everything they could carry including raiding gravesites. This is certainly something that we rarely if ever read about in history books.

Full of photographs of the journey of Mayflower II this book truly brings that first journey to life, helping readers see what life about the first Mayflower might have been like. The text helps the reader understand that history books are often full of romanticised and incorrect stories about historic events. The travellers on the Mayflower never called themselves Pilgrims and they were not a united group; they disagreed, argued, got lost, and at time behaved in a manner that we would consider shameful today. And yet, they did manage to survive against frightful odds. We can be proud of them for this and remember that they were, just like the rest of us, fallible humans prone to making mistakes.

Readers may want to consider visiting Mayflower II some day, and in the last section of the book they will find information about the ship and the goal of those who work with her.