New Books For Young Readers Tell The Mayflower Story As 400th Anniversary Of Voyage Nears

By: Debra Lawless

Just in time for the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower this fall are two books about the Mayflower for young readers.

“The Adventures of Plimoth Plantation as Told by the Mayflower Mouse” (iUniverse, 2020) by Marian R. Carlson is a charming retelling of the Mayflower story from the diary of Uncle Sam, an English mouse. Uncle Sam is able to scurry unobserved “through my network of passages” around the ship eavesdropping here and there. “I’m a stowaway, here for nibbles of grain and cheese and morsels of dried peas.”

Uncle Sam’s diary opens on Sept. 6, 1620, and runs through November 1621 and the first Thanksgiving in Plimoth. He observes the passengers’ reaction to the birth of Oceanus Hopkins, and describes the rescue of John Howland after he fell overboard. The ship plows through storms and finally, after 66 days at sea, reaches Cape Cod, anchoring in Provincetown where Peregrine White is born. In early December Uncle Sam confides to his diary, “I’m freezing, although my fur grows thicker.” But the Mayflower sets sail again, and this time arrives in Plimoth where life is so tough that many of the Pilgrims take sick and die. Uncle Sam hibernates in a mouse hole.

“While we’re having fun with history, my book is based on research of primary documents, such as William Bradford’s priceless journal at the State House Library,” Carlson said in an email.

The book has received the Editor’s Choice/Rising Star Award for excellence in writing from iUniverse. Carlson, a Chatham summer resident since the 1980s, is a mother of three and grandmother of six. Her 12-year-old granddaughter, Emma Wildfeuer of California, illustrated the book with vignettes. The front cover illustration is by Chatham artist John Hutchinson.

Carlson, a former elementary school teacher, is also the author of “John Adams: The Voice Heard ‘Round the World” (Schoolmaster Press, 2010) for fourth-graders and up. In that book Carlson tells Adams’s story through the eyes of his son, John Quincy, who was 16 in 1783, the year the book is set. That book won the New England Book Award for K-12 and the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

Carlson will read “The Adventures of Plimoth Plantation as Told by the Mayflower Mouse” during Family Storytime at Oyster Pond in Chatham on Sept. 4 and 11 at 6:30 p.m. (weather permitting). Bring beach blankets and masks. The first 10 guests will be welcome in the story circle, with social distancing.

Carlson will also sign copies of her book on Saturday, Sept. 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham. For more information call the store at 508-945-0144.

For author Rebecca Locklear, a native of Chatham and Orleans who now lives in Oregon, publishing a book is also a family affair. Locklear’s son Ven, a professional illustrator, designed the cover of “The Mayflower at Cape Cod: Stories, Activities, and Research That Connect 1620 With Life Today” (Skaket Books and Art, 2020). The workbook can be used with students in grades six through 12.

The creative book poses the question: What happened when the Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod for five weeks in 1620? In particular, the book focuses on the First Encounter between the Pilgrims and the Nausets.

Locklear wrote the book because she learned from the Eastham 400 Commemoration Committee that “there is not curriculum out there for middle and high school students about the Mayflower story that includes the latest historical information,” she said in an email. Unlike many authors, Locklear examines varied aspects of the Mayflower story including cross-cultural communication, the environment, epidemics, freedom, immigration, marine mammals, migration, self-sufficiency, slavery, tribal issues and wilderness survival, to name a few.

Divided into seven lesson units, the book contains directions for 70 creative activities in various arenas, including cooking foods such as cranberry muffins and seafood “stuffies” in shells. Locklear ventures into fascinating areas such as the comet that appeared in 1618, two years before the Pilgrims set sail. “Why was it called the ‘Angry Star?’ What did Christians imagine was happening?” And she ranges into diseases that ultimately decimated the Native population, asking students to name the diseases and to compare how many Europeans as opposed to Natives died of the diseases. Of particular interest today as the coronavirus continues to affect our daily lives might be the section on epidemics, where Locklear asks students to contemplate modern-day epidemics.

Unlike other books on the Mayflower, this one also illustrates various aspects of the story with photographs. For example, one photograph shows a view toward First Encounter Beach in Eastham from Cape Cod Bay. This is an area where the Pilgrims “sloshed their way from their boat to shore in the November and December cold.” Another photo shows the beach buried under six inches of snow.

Locklear, a teacher for 37 years, is the author of the 2019 book “Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities.”

For more information about “The Mayflower at Cape Cod,” including purchasing information, visit www.rebeccalocklear.com. The book is available in both a digital PDF and print edition.