Our America…The Pilgrim Adventure
by Susan Kilbride
$8.95 at Amazon
Historical fiction for ages 8-12
What’s it about? Ginny and Finn, 12-year-old twins, have been living with their aunt and uncle since their parents’ mysterious disappearance. Finn suspects that Uncle Peter knows more than he’s telling, but the truth is stranger than anything he’s imagined.
The children find themselves on a quest through time to find their lost parents. First stop: The Mayflower.
The Pilgrim Adventure is based on true accounts by the Pilgrims of their time aboard the Mayflower and their first year at Plymouth Rock. Ginny and Finn meet their ancestors, the Billington family, who were actual ancestors of author, Susan Kilbride.
This is the first book in a planned series. If your kiddos like Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House books, this book would be the next step up in terms of reading ability. The author recommends it for ages 10 and up, but I’d say it’s appropriate for younger children if they have the reading ability (you can see a sample at Amazon). We read it aloud as a family.
What did we think? The Pilgrim Adventure is an easy read with short chapters, making it easy to fit into our day a little bit at a time. Although the author is trying to immerse you in the Pilgrim’s time period, dialogue is written in modern English, so young readers should have no trouble understanding it.
The book got mixed ratings around here, but my kids are tough critics (remind me to never ask them to review anything that I write ;0).
The number one thing they would improve: better and more descriptions. Examples: they had a hard time getting a handle on what the Mayflower was really like, or what kind of a boat a shallop was (the boat used to investigate the shoreline). There are no illustrations in the book, so you are left to use your imagination (which is fine, by the way).
Personally, I took the lack of descriptions as a challenge to do a little bit of independent research to find out more about the things we wanted to know about (because there’s no end to what curious minds can find with a little bit of digging and seeking info is good for the mind). To that end, here are a couple of websites that make wonderful supplements to this book:
- Find out about shallops and, as a bonus, the Voyages of Captain John Smith on this site.
- Here’s a great site on the history of the Mayflower that even includes a diagrams of the ship, links to primary resources, and more.
I have to agree with them on this point, this is an instance where the book draws attention to itself and makes it difficult to forget that it really is a made up story. But, I would add that it’s not unusual for books written for this age group to have heroes and heroines who do unbelievable things. Perhaps the difference is that this is meant to be a slice of history rather than straight fantasy.
If you’re looking for a book to get lost in that fills in all the details for you, The Pilgrim Adventure won’t really do that, but it’s a useful starting point for doing an informal study of the Pilgrims journey to the New World and some of the challenges they faced during their first year here. You could very easily add some pictures books, online media, and hands-on activities and turn this into a weeklong mini-study.
You can also download a free pdf of crafty activities to accompany The Pilgrim Adventure on Susan Kilbride’s site.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to facilitate my review. I received no compensation and all opinions expressed here are my own (or my kids’).