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I keep sorting and re-sorting the new books on (and around) my desk and this stack of Pilgrim and Nautical themes is the result.

Mayflower 1620 Mayflower 1620 is a remarkable photographic recreation of the voyage of the Pilgrims from Plymouth, England to Plimoth Plantation, New England. In 2001, a group of well-trained volunteers (in meticulous period costumes) from Plimoth Plantation sailed the Mayflower II from Plymouth to Boston. National Geographic sent along a team of photographers specifically to create the photographs for this book. The result is a rich photographic reproduction of what the 1620 voyage must have been like. From the loading of supplies and cargo to the sighting of land 2 months later, we get an acute sense of what shipboard life was like (very cramped and uncomfortable). There is even a mention of my unfortunate ancestor, John Howland, who was swept overboard, and then miraculously saved! Text is middle school & up. Mayflower 1620 is a paperback, 47 pages of photographs $6.95 from Greenleaf.

1621 Thanksgiving1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving is a photographic recreation of the First Thanksgiving by the same National Geographic team of photographers who did Mayflower 1620, using again, the resources of the living history museum and re-enactors of Plimoth Village, augmented by 90 Wampanoag Indian descendants. The text leans a bit towards the revisionist side in its attempt to correct the mythologies of the First Thanksgiving, but is generally factually correct. And the pictures are stunning. The First Thanksgiving, on closer examination, turns out to have been not a single meal, but three days of harvest celebration at which the Indians outnumbered the Pilgrims by 2:1. There are two pages of some pretty tempting recipes included – ironically, the Wampanoag dish is based on dried corn pounded to flour – better known to us Southerners as “grits!”

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving is a paperback, 47 pages, full color, $7.95 from Greenleaf Press.

PilgrimsPilgrims of Plymouth is a picture book for young readers, first through third grades with a simple text and beautiful photographs of typical daily scenes from the life of the settlers in the first few years of the 1620s. There’s a simple explanation of why they left England (so they “could pray in their own way”) and also the attraction that “here, some of them would own farms for the first time.” There’s a special focus on children and a delightful concluding photograph of three children (including this cute guy from the cover), with the text, “The Pilgrims were real people, just like us!” This is definitely a K-3 book, paperback, 16 pages, $5.95 from Greenleaf Press.

Pilgrims 01 Pilgrims 03 Pilgrims 02

Sailing HomeSailing Home is a delightful story about a clipper ship and its captain and his family. It is based on the real ship, John Ena which made 44 voyages between 1896 and 1910 commanded by Captain Mads Albert Madsen who was accompanied by his wife and four children (two of whom were born aboard ship). The ship was impressively large (312 feet long and 48 feet wide), with spacious accommodations for the Captain’s family. And of course, they were homeschooled! (ship-schooled?) Lots of unusual adventures and shipboard games. “Our favorite game was sliding across the main saloon floor in cardboard boxes, crashing into one another as the ship rolled from side to side.” There is also the sobering tale of being caught in a frightening storm – but overall a very interesting read and a celebration of family life around the turn of the century. Its easy to misinterpret the title. It does not refer to sailing towards home, but rather living in a home that sails. Text is upper elementary and up, paperback, 40 pages, color throughout, $6.95 from Greenleaf Press.

The Great ShipsThe Great Ships is a celebration of famous, historic ships over the past thousand years. “Old sailors know that every ship on the sea has its own personality… In the swift longships of the Vikings and the massive aircraft carriers of today, in humble little caravels and mighty men-of-war, sailors have gone to sea with the urge to roam, to explore, to conquer. It is this spirit of adventure and exploration that has made the great ships great.” The artist has given us vivid illustrations of twenty ships, including: the Gokstad Viking Ship; the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria; Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind; the Mayflower; Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge; the Bounty; Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory; “Old Ironsides”; the Amistad; the Monitor; the Titanic; the German battleship Bismarck; and the nuclear aircraft carrier, Enterprise. The Great Ships is paperback, 40 pages, all in color, and $7.95 from Greenleaf Press.

ironsides Monitor Enterprise

TitanicMy final book to review is this unusual retelling of the ill-fated Titanic published by Firefly Books. The “unusual” part is the inclusion of items bound into the book, including:

  • Tickets
  • Postcards
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Telegrams
  • Official technical data
  • Envelopes and letters
  • Certificate of seaworthiness

and other items as well. The narrative is told from the perspective of a journalist on board the ship. He gives us a thorough tour and introduction to the accommodations for first class, second class, and steerage passengers. The inclusion of so many reproduction artifacts makes this book come alive in a way that others don’t. It’s more than a little spooky to be looking at the illustrations and photographs while holding a ticket, or reading a telegram just sent up from the wireless room. Text is junior high and up, hardback, 26 pages, but with lots of artifacts. Titanic is $19.95 from Greenleaf Press.

It’s been a busy week in Tennessee for homeschoolers. Read the other posts on to catch up with the antics of the Tennessee legislature.

And if you visit the Greenleaf Press website, please browse around a bit. We have over 1200 items available online now – History, Literature, Art, & Music resources for children and homeschooling families.

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press


Our daughter-in-law called last week and asked for a book to help our four-year-old grandson understand what Thanksgiving is all about. Here are three that we have carried for some time that I think are good introductions for young people.

first thanksgiving The First Thanksgiving is a great book for younger students. It tells the story in a simple way, but with lots of interesting detail and engaging pictures. Its important to note that the first Thanksgiving was not the first thing the Pilgrims did after they got off the Mayflower. The first Thanksgiving was a response to the bountiful harvest that they enjoyed at the end of their first year in the New World – after having survived the terrible first winter when half the Pilgrims died. Step 3 books are designed for grades 1-3 when children are first reading on their own. Of course, it can be read to younger children of any age! Abe Lincoln’s Hat, Christopher Columbus, and Pocahontas are other Step 3 titles. Pompeii, Tut’s Mummy, and Titanic are Step 4 titles.

three young pilgrims For slightly older students, I recommend Cheryl Harness’ Three Young Pilgrims. It tells the heart-breaking story of the Allerton children. When the Allerton family first steps from the Mayflower after 60 days at sea, they never dream that life in the New World will be so hard. Richly detailed paintings show how the Pilgrims lived through the dark winter and into the busy days of spring, summer, and fall, culminating with the excitement of the original Thanksgiving feast.

Mary, Remember, and Bartholomew are the Three Young Pilgrims. Together with their parents, they set sail for the new world in 1620. During the first winter, almost half the Pilgrims died, including the children’s mother and her new baby. But the second summer’s harvest was bountiful and the Pilgrims held a feast to give thanks to the Maker. More colonists joined the Pilgrims and more settlements were established. When Mary Allerton Cushman died in 1699, she was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower.

It is a remarkable story, very skillfully told. And Cheryl Harness’ illustrations are wonderfully detailed with more than a few whimsical, but accurate details. This is a great book to introduce the Thanksgiving story to your children.

Landing of the PilgrimsThe Landing of the Pilgrims, written in 1950, by Newbery-award-winning author James Daugherty is a wonderful retelling of the background to the Pilgrim colony in New England. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is titled “Not as Other Men,” and tells the story of the Separatists in England and their decision to leave their homes and emigrate to Holland, and their eventual disappointment at the circumstances there and decision to move once again. Part 2 is titled “Between Two Worlds” and tells the story of the voyage and exploration of the New England coast Don’t miss the account of young John Howland being washed overboard and rescued which begins on page 37 (I’m a direct descendant of John Howland!). Part 3, titled “New England Adventure” tells the story of the first three years of the colony and includes an account of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Like all the Landmarks, this is one of the outstanding history books for young people. Independent reading level is grade 6 and up, but younger readers will enjoy hearing it read out loud.

As your family gathers together for Thanksgiving – remind each other of the honorable tradition handed down by our ancestors and let us give thanks to God for his many blessings.

-Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press
Director, Schaeffer Study Center