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Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving Hardcover – September 15, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
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The first picture book from National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, illustrated by Caldecott Honor illustrator Yuyi Morales. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Most American children know the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, but the Native American side of the tale is far less familiar. Joseph Bruchac, a prolific and award-winning author of Native American descent (The First Strawberries, A Boy Called Slow) describes life in 1620 for a man who was destined to save the Pilgrims even as he was losing his family and tribe. Told from Squanto's point of view, this historically accurate and detailed story brings to life one of the most important moments in America's past. Demonstrating how much his people (the Patuxet, the People of the Falls) value honor, Squanto befriends English traders, even after being kidnapped and taken to Spain. After much hard work, Squanto manages to sail back to his homeland, where, in spite of his discovery that many of his people have died from disease brought by white people, he acts as envoy between the English and his own people, and helps the pilgrims survive in their new world.

Throughout this moving tale, Squanto's belief that "these men can share our land as friends" poignantly shines through. Greg Shed's gouache illustrations capture the warmth and dignity of Squanto and his friends. Young readers will be fascinated by this lesser-known perspective on the Thanksgiving tradition that remains strong today. (Ages 6 to 10) --Emilie Coulter

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5-A picture book that focuses on the young Indian who helped the Pilgrims survive the brutality of the New England winter. When he was 24, an English captain abducted Squanto along with 20 of his tribesmen and took them to Spain to be sold as slaves. Spanish friars helped him escape to England where he learned the language and dreamed of going back to his native land. When he finally returned, he served as translator and mediator between the English colonists and the other Indian tribes. He convinced Samoset, a sachem of the Pemaquid, to accept and work with the white settlers. It was this cooperation that helped the tiny Plymouth Colony to survive. Many authors have given the Native American credit for his role in the survival of the colony. What distinguishes this first-person account is the authenticity of detail. In his author's note, Bruchac describes the research that he used to flesh out the story with dates and names. However, because of the wealth of facts, the text has a stilted quality. Shed's full-page gouache illustrations are beautifully executed in golden, autumnal tones. There is a richness of detail in the pictures that echoes the passion for historical accuracy in costume and interior-and-exterior dwellings. However, the full-bled illustrations tend to overwhelm the text and the uniformity of their size and placement can become somewhat tedious. Still, most libraries will want to own this version.
Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 560L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Silver Whistle; 1 edition (September 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152018174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152018177
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,246,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 5, 2000
Format: Library Binding
This book is an excellent way of sharing the first Thanksgiving with children. It is told from the perspective of the Native Americans, a perspective that is often overlooked. The illustrations are beautiful and help to tell the story visually.
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Format: Paperback
This is a nice book about Squanto, beginning with when he was forcibly taken to Spain and sold into slavery, through learning English and travelling back to North America to eventually help the Pilgrims as they established their new colony. Most of what I learned about Squanto was new to me.

Each 2-page spread has a full page illustration. The illustrations are attractive in gold, autumn tones.

There is a brief glossary on the back of the very last page, mixed in with copyright information, it's easy to mess. However, there is no pronunciation key which would have been very helpful for the names of the Indian tribes and individuals.

Also be aware, this book doesn't really teach you much about the Pilgrims or about the first Thanksgiving, so you need another book for those topics, but this is a nice addition to a collection of "Thanksgiving" books for children in the elementary school years.
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High hopes for this book were ultimately disappointed by the poor level of writing and editing. However promising, this concept is delivered without grace, humor, or skill. I once hear a writer say successful writing "shows," not tells...well, this book "tells."

My K-3rd grade audience was confused by this book, and no wonder: an odd first-person introduction by "future Squanto" (1621) drops the reader into a narrative about past Squanto (confusingly written in the present tense by past Squanto), transitions again into "present tense" (1621) Squanto to talk almost-not-at-all about the pilgrims' Thanksgiving, and then ends with a "I'll always be here" message (is this pre-thanksgiving Squanto again? An older Squanto?). I'm sure the author probably thought having Squanto tell the story might make it more compelling, but he neglected to help Squanto sound like an actual person. Instead, he recites his experiences in a dry, mechanical way as it he weren't actually the one in the experiences. Different terms are randomly swapped out to refer to the same Indian tribes and areas of the world...I had to keep putting the book down and explaining to my kids, "that must be a translation for the name of that Indian tribe." It feels like a non-native person did a lot of research and tried to "sound native" by sometimes using English-language translations of Indian words and other times using the words themselves...it just doesn't work and feels like someone is trying to work in as much research as possible rather than write a successful children's book.

This is the real problem: the story isn't presented compellingly and it ignores its young audience's needs.
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After reading over the book and putting myself in the shoes of an elementary school child, the information in this book seems to be somewhat confusing and overwhelming for students. Only the most advanced child would be able to make some sense out of the language and academics of this book.
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I didn't know about the story about Squanto and his life before and during when the settlers arrived on the shore, but now I do. thank you for breaking the mythical 'thanksgiving image' that we have thought for so many years. our society needs to know the truth, and not sugar coat it.
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This is a great book. I bought it for my first grade class though and felt there were elements that might have been a little too grown up for them. However it didn't go too far and the educational aspect of it was great. If you're reading it to 2nd graders and up it's excellent. Just use your own filters and judgement for the younger ones.
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I love the story of Squanto - a young man who endures incredibly bad situations, and still has the courage and dignity to help others. The illustrations in this book make Squanto's world come alive. Easy text - great for younger readers.

Everything Joseph Bruchac does is excellent.

My older readers also like "Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims" by Peter Buchard.
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The story of Squanto has great content for young people just being introduced to biographies being read to them. 3rd graders will read this on their own. The illustrations set a mood of realism for the child. I thought the historical content was accurate. Nice job.
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