From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5—Thomas Savage, 13, accompanies Captain Christopher Newport on his second sailing from England to Jamestown, arriving in the "New World" in January 1608. Newport and John Smith give Thomas to the Native American leader Powhatan and ask the boy to learn the language and act as an interpreter. As tensions between the English and the Native people mount, Thomas's position becomes precarious. Eventually he goes to Virginia's Eastern Shore and becomes one of the first white landowners there. Fritz usually writes nonfiction, but she could not find a great deal of factual information about Savage's life. She says in her foreword, "Without documentary evidence of what went on in Thomas' mind, I have to call this book historical fiction." However, she seems reluctant to commit to the genre and, as a result, Thomas is not a fully realized character. Sentences that include "perhaps" or "he may have" preserve historical accuracy, but serve to distance readers from the action. The charcoal drawings were "colorized on a computer, printed onto stipple paper, and finished with acrylic paints," a process that gives the colors depth and texture. However, the depiction of the Native people does not fit historical descriptions from the period. Instead of looking intimidating, all the Natives appear avuncular and unthreatening. There are no shaved or partially shaved heads; no face or body paint in evidence. The whole book has a somewhat old-fashioned feel to it. However, libraries looking to expand their resources for Jamestown's 400th anniversary may want to include this title in their collections.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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Fritz takes what is known of Thomas Savage's life and creates a vivid if sometimes disturbing narrative that depicts aspects of life in Jamestown nearly 400 years ago. According to her account, in 1608, 13-year-old Thomas was sent to live with the Native Americans, learn their language, and become an interpreter. Shuttling between the two cultures, Thomas befriended both John Smith and Powhatan. When relations between the communities became troubled, Powhatan lured 60 colonists to his capital, where half of them were shot and one was dismembered, burned, and skinned while Thomas looked on. With the hope of peace destroyed, Thomas returned to Jamestown and grew up to become a landowner on the Eastern Shore. Cataloging-in-publication places the volume in nonfiction, but Fritz notes that "Without documentary evidence of what went on in Thomas's mind, I have to call this book historical fiction." Librarians may want to heed Fritz and shelve the book in fiction collections, but the intended audience is unclear. A description of torture, even though not depicted in the artwork, seems out of place in a book for middle-grade children, while the many colorful illustrations give it an elementary-school look that may be off-putting for middle-school students. Also, one illustration depicts a European woman helping with the reconstruction of Jamestown after a fire in early 1608, though the first woman colonist would not arrive until fall. For purchasers, the book's intriguing story must be viewed against its many flaws. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved