Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Adventurous life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-but-true survival story o

The Adventurous life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-but-true survival story o

Cheryl Harness
For ages 12 and up
National Geographic, 2006   ISBN: 978-0792259183

Not much is known about Myles Standish?s early life but it is likely that he began his military career when he was quite young. What we do know is that he was one of a number of English soldiers who went to Holland to help the Dutch fight against their oppressive Spanish masters. It is likely that he first met the people whom we call the Pilgrims in Holland during this time. The people did not in fact call themselves Pilgrims. Instead they were called "Separatists" who had left their native England to get away from the religiously intolerant King James. The Separatists were settled in the town of Leyden but they were not happy there. They worried that their children would not follow the god-fearing and simple lifestyle that they believed in. There were also signs that political unrest was not far off. Clearly the time had come to move on.

After much discussion and argument it was decided that some of their number, those who were the strongest and most able, would go and found a colony in the new world. In the end the group crossed the Atlantic on a ship called the Mayflower and Myles Standish was hired to be the colony's "military advisor." It was a role Myles took very seriously and once they got to the new world he worked very hard to help his fellow travelers in any way he could, to protect his people, to solidify friendly relationships with local Native American tribes, and to make sure that the "Indians" did not stir up trouble against the people living at the Plymouth colony.

What makes this book unique is that Cheryl Harness tells the story of a whole era in a bright and informal way, with humor and with sympathy. She gives her readers the background that they need to understand what it was the Pilgrims were running away from and why they were so desperate to create a new life in the New World. In great detail she also describes the Native American tribes that they encountered, making sure that her readers understand that these were people who had been ill-used by Europeans in the past. Lastly, the author tells us the complete story of the colony, from its very unhappy beginnings to the day when thousands lived in Plymouth and when people began to leave because farming land became scarce. We are able to follow the fortunes of the Pilgrims right to the day when the last of their number died in 1699 at the grand age of eighty-three

Cheryl Harness's detailed artwork is found throughout the book. She has also created a timeline which runs across the bottom of every page. This interesting feature of the book shows readers what was happening in the world from the year 1584 to the year 1660. At the back of the book the author includes a description and illustration of the Mayflower and a complete list of all those who sailed on her on September 16th, 1620.