Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

The story of Squanto, the Native American who helped the pilgrims and journeyed to England.

I read Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, aloud to my almost 5-year-old, and I have to say I’m a little obsessed. First of all, I was prepared to stop if it veered into anything offensive, like a noble savage stereotype, and that never happened. All I felt like I needed to explain was that we don’t say “Indian” anymore, we say “Native American.” Bulla does give Squanto a stilted way of speaking when he’s meant to be speaking English, but it was not sterotypical dialect (and therefore laughable), but rather served to easily remind a young reader that Squanto is a fish out of water.

Apart from that I felt like the book was an age-appropriate introduction to an important part of American history and even presented some of the complex issues surrounding our nation’s origins without getting too didactic. You really do get a sense of the impact that the settlers had on the Native Americans through Squanto’s own journey, and personally I think that’s the best way to approach complicated issues.

Now, Squanto’s own story is just incredible! I had no idea what this man went through. He was fascinated by the first Englishmen who came over to trade, and decided to travel with them for a time. Then, he was invited to London and ended up staying there for years waiting for a ship home. He finally got a voyage back to Massachusetts, but before he could leave the English and look for his village, he was kidnapped and taken to Spain to be sold into slavery. He was rescued by some monks, then worked for them until he could get passage back to England. He then worked for several more years in England before finally getting another voyage home. Once home, he discovered that his village was gone because all of his people were wiped out by illness. Homeless and without a people, Squanto decided then to give the Puritans his help after seeing that they lacked essential survival skills. He had heard of them during his time in England and appreciated their desire to be free to practice their beliefs. What really shines through in this book is the importance of looking forward in hope no matter what your circumstances. Personally, I was very inspired!

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