Pros:Simplified information for children, nice illustrations.
The Bottom Line: For classroom use or reading at home, If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 gives children insight into the events that led up to the First Thanksgiving.
Throughout the years we have amassed quite a variety of children's books. Some were chosen because they featured a beloved character, had a cute title or cover, or were based on a recommendation, and of course others were chosen by me or my husband because we felt they were educational and would contain information that our children should possess. Ann McGovern's If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 falls into the latter category.
Before the actual story begins, there is a two page black and white cutaway sketch of what the Mayflower looked like. Different areas are labeled, such as the Captain's cabin, the rudder, the Galley, the crew and Pilgrims' quarters, the Main mast, as well as where the supplies were stored.
This eighty-page softcover book is not quite a chapter book, yet there is a table of contents at the beginning that can help you find a specific piece of information pertaining to the sailing of this ship. This is particularly helpful if a child needs to do a report and needs to refer back to the book to answer a certain question, of course, after he or she had read the entire book. Are you interested in learning about the kind of ship the Mayflower actually was? Turn to page 14. How about learning about the terms of the peace treaty? That information begins on page 56. And beginning on page 73, the subheadings all pertain to different aspects of the First Thanksgiving.
There are almost fifty different questions that differentiate each section of the book so that it is broken down into to small pieces for young learners to digest. Most topics are covered in one or two pages, which includes illustrations, and some are very short:
"What rules did people have to obey?
Everyone had to obey the rules made by the leaders of Plymouth.
The most important rule was going to church on Sunday. Everyone had to go.
Everyone had to work hard.
It was a crime to get drunk.
And stealing was a crime."
This text takes up about half of the page and underneath is an illustration of the Pilgrims in a Church-like setting, with the men in one set of pews and the women and children in pews on the other side of the room.
The text is printed in a nice sized font in black on a white background so that it is clear and easy to read, and the illustrations are simple watercolors that are not too distracting. Some pages have small drawings depicting what is written, while on other pages the picture takes up more than half of the page and there are few pages where the picture takes up the entire pages. There are very few two-page spreads that do not have any picture at all.
This book was first published in 1969 and throughout, refers to the people the Pilgrims met in America simply as "Indians" rather than Native Americans or by any particular tribe, although Samoset, Squanto and Chief Massasoit are all named in the book.
If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 is a comprehensive children's book beginning with an explanation of what a "pilgrim" actually is why so many people wanted to leave England. Their difficult journey and the hardships they encountered when they finally reached land is discussed, and, as is often still the case today, the book ends by describing how the Pilgrim women and girls spent Thanksgiving cooking while the men and boys played games.
According to the publisher's website (www.scholastic.com), this book is geared for children in the third and fourth grades, has a Lexile level of 600, has a Guided Reading level of "P" and a DRA level of 34-38. Younger children may be interested in the content being read to them, especially around Thanksgiving, and slightly older children will probably find it a quick read, but they may learn something that they did not already know.
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