Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Joseph Bruchac
Illustrator:  Greg Shed 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Harcourt, 2000   ISBN: 978-0152060442

In the year 1614 John Smith came to the land where Squanto, a Patuxet Native American, was living with his tribe. With John Smith came a Captain called Thomas Hunt. Hunt, unlike Smith and his friend Thomas Dermer, was not an honorable man. He took Squanto and some of friends captive, took them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. Thankfully Squanto was befriended by kind monks who were willing to help Squanto get back to his homeland. They got the Native American to England and from there Squanto managed to get help from Thomas Dermer, one of John Smith's officers.

When he got back to his homeland Squanto discovered that a sickness brought to New England by white traders had almost wiped out his entire tribe. Most of his family was gone. Squanto set to work trying to build bridges of peace between the white men and his people. It was not an easy task for some of the native peoples were angry and they did not want peace. In one confrontation Squanto was taken prisoner and he was given to the Pokanoket tribe.

When the Mayflower arrived the Pokanoket kept their distance until Squanto was able to persuade the sachem, the leader, that it would be wise to make friends with the English. Then Samoset, the sachem of another tribe, arrived and he made the first move, going to talk to the English. A few days later Samoset returned to the English camp with Squanto.

Squanto became "a guide and interpreter" for the English, teaching them how to survive in their new land and keeping the peace between them and the native tribes. Squanto showed them how to plant local crops and the crops did well enough that his people and the English were able to "give thanks together."

In this beautifully written book children will discover how vital Squanto was for the people of the Plymouth Colony. It is very likely that without their forgiving and generous neighbor the English would have not survived in their new home. Not only did Squanto teach them essential skills for growing food and hunting, but he also kept the peace between the native tribes and the English. Even though he lost so much at the hands of the English, Squanto was "a man of honor" who helped those in need.

This is the perfect book to share with children at Thanksgiving, for through Squanto's words children will see that there is a forgotten hero in the story about the Plymouth Thanksgiving, a hero whose words should be heard on this special American holiday.