Blood on the River

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Blood on the River: Jamestown, 1607
Author: Carbone, Elisa
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Time Period: Enlightenment
Time Frame: 1606-1610
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: Colonial America, Jamestown
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Upper Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2006

American History > Enlightenment > Colonial America / Jamestown

Twelve-year-old Samuel Collier is a lowly commoner on the streets of London. So when he becomes the page of Captain John Smith and boards the Susan Constant, bound for the New World, he can’t believe his good fortune. He’s heard that gold washes ashore with every tide. But beginning with the stormy journey and his first contact with the native people, he realizes that the New World is nothing like he imagined. The lush Virginia shore where they establish the colony of James Town is both beautiful and forbidding, and it’s hard to know who’s a friend or foe. As he learns the language of the Algonquian Indians and observes Captain Smith’s wise diplomacy, Samuel begins to see that he can be whomever he wants to be in this new land.

Emily's Review

I love this kind of historical fiction, where we get to see the lives of real people fictionalized. Is it always 100% accurate? No. But it does give a pretty good feel for the time period and the way people at that time would have thought and interacted.

This story focuses around Samuel Collier, an orphan who came to Jamestown as a servant. His growth over the course of the story is inspiring. He starts out very angry at the world and not trusting anyone, but through the experiences in Jamestown and with mentors like John Smith and Reverend Hunt, he learns to open up and make friends. I loved seeing the interactions between real historical figures. I love getting to imagine what people were like and why they were motivated to do the things they did. This story allows us to peek in at those figures and imagine what their lives were actually like. The colonists in Jamestown went through some incredibly difficult experiences. Stories like this give us the chance to speculate about what they might have said and done.

The only thing I wish was that we had gotten more of the Indigenous perspective, though I understand why the author chose not to go that route. We see some pretty ignorant attitudes towards Native Americans, which was accurate to the time, and we also see some characters, like Samuel, understanding that those attitudes were wrong. So while it does have some balance, I do wish we could have gotten more from their perspectives, particularly since two native characters were relatively prominent in the story.

This exciting action-packed story is an excellent introduction to early English colonization for middle-grade readers.

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