History Smashers: The Mayflower

Kate Messner (Chirp; The Brilliant Deep) has an intuitive understanding of how to present materials to children in a way that is entertaining, edifying and always aimed directly at them. Messner brings her talent, her respect for the child reader and thorough research to the History Smashers series. Combined with the illustrations and comic panels of Dylan Meconis (Queen of the Sea), The Mayflower is as funny and silly as it is educational and fascinating.

"Imagine a high school basketball court cut in half the long way. Now imagine living in that space for a little over two months with 101 people... all of your stuff, and also some cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and goats. Welcome to the Mayflower." Extensive backmatter shows Messner's sources for this fluid retelling of the Separatists' path--from England to Holland and eventually across the Atlantic--to becoming the Pilgrims of Plymouth. (Though they were supposed to land in Virginia.) Special attention is given to the Wampanoag people, who had lived in the area for "more than twelve thousand years" when the Separatists showed up. Messner holds no punches in explaining the history of colonialism and the falsehood that has come to be known as "the first Thanksgiving." Meconis's black-and-white illustrations and comic panels are full of action, her loose black line and figures effectively finding a balance between comic art and accurate historical representation. Her illustrations make Messner's text all the more dynamic, creating a history book for middle-graders that should be on everyone's (child and adult) to-read list. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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