Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Mystery of the Roanoke Colony

The Mystery of the Roanoke Colony

Xavier Niz
Illustrator:  Shannon Denton 
Nonfiction Graphic Novel  Series
Capstone Press, 2006   ISBN: 978-0736896573

For many centuries countries competed to set up as many colonies as they could, eager to spread their influence over as much territory as possible. Queen Elizabeth I of England was ambitious on her country’s behalf, especially when she learned that her enemy, Spain, had colonies in America. The Queen gave one of her favorites, Sir Walter Raleigh, permission to build a colony in the new world, and this he did on the island of Roanoke. In the spring of 1585 seven ships full of colonists and their supplies left England and they arrived at their destination in the summer of that year. The leader of the endeavor, Sir Richard Grenville, then set sail for home to report back to Sir Walter and the queen.

The colony had insufficient supplies and had to rely on the local native peoples for much of what they needed. Their demands and the spread of disease in the local tribes meant that it was not long before the locals grew angry with the colonists. In June of 1586 Sir Francis Drake arrived at the colony to check on its progress. Sir Francis had extra supplies which he was willing to give to the colonists, but they were destroyed by a storm and the colonists decided that they could no longer remain on the island. Some weeks after the colonists had left, Sir Richard Grenville finally returned to the island only to find that everyone had gone. He left behind fifteen of his soldiers and sailed away.

Though the first attempt to colonize the island of Roanoke was a failure, Sir Walter Raleigh was not ready to give up, and in 1587 he sent another group of colonists to Roanoke. They expected to find Sir Richard’s soldiers there when they arrived, but the settlement was abandoned and the new arrivals later learned that the soldiers had fled after some native warriors attacked them.

The second group colonists got to work securing the fort built by the first colonists but they soon found out that they had a lot of problems to solve if this colony was to survive. In the end the leader of the colony, John White, was forced to leave Roanoke to get supplies from England. It took him several years to return and when he did so the colony was abandoned. The people had disappeared.

To this day historians do not know what happened to the survivors of the Roanoke colony. Many ideas have been put forward, but no one has found out where the men, women and children who tried to make Roanoke their home went.

In this excellent Graphic Library title, the story of the Roanoke colony is told using a graphic novel style format. This is a perfect book for young readers who like image-rich books.