Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Roanoke The Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History

Roanoke The Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History

Jane Yolen , Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrator:  Roger Roth 
Nonfiction picture book
For ages 7 to 10
Simon and Schuster, 2003   ISBN: 978-0689823213

The first English settlement at Roanoke was not a success. Relations with the "Indians" in the area went sour when the English treated the Native Americans badly and the settlers gave up, returning home to England. Then Sir Walter Raleigh chose an artist, John White, to lead a new group of people to Virginia. It was hoped that this time the colony would prosper and become a permanent settlement. With plenty of soldiers to protect the colonists and two Indian guides to help them communicate with the Indians surely this time things would go well.

The plan was to build a new settlement in the Chesapeake Bay area, but in the end the colonists ended up in Roanoke where they set about rebuilding. The colonists had a hard time. There were altercations with the local Indian tribes and food was scarce. As winter approached it was decided that White would return to England to get supplies and help. It was agreed that if the colonists left Roanoke, they would leave a message carved on a tree to let White know where they had gone.

It took White several years before he was able to return to America ,and when he arrived he found that the fort at Roanoke had been abandoned. A message had been left, but White was not given the chance to investigate further and the mystery of what had happened to the Roanoke colonists was never solved.

There are many theories about what happened to the colonists, and the authors share some of the most popular ones with their readers. They ask a lot of questions to encourage young people to think about the problem for themselves. Not only is the story written with great skill and with a sense of the dramatic, but the authors helps their readers see that history can be exciting and interesting.