Author: Joseph Bruchac
Major Themes: Jamestown, John Smith, Pocahontas
Synopsis: Pocahontas and John Smith tell the story of the first year of the European settlement in Jamestown.
We have just wrapped up a study of Jamestown as part of our trip through American history. I checked our local library’s catalog of books to see if there were any about Jamestown, although I didn’t expect to find any, and was pleasantly surprised to find Pocahontas, by Joseph Bruchac, as a digital book. I have appreciated the other books I have read by him, so decided to add this one in to our experience.
This book is narrated by Pocahontas and John Smith, with one chapter by the one and the next by the other. Each chapter is opened with a quote from an early European eyewitness to the settlement of Jamestown, in the case of John Smith’s stories, or an Algonquian legend, in the chapters about Pocahontas. We found it very interesting to compare the Native American viewpoint with the European view of the same incidents; it was easy to understand how misunderstandings arose. We had to chuckle at the self-important way in which John Smith wrote. At the same time, the Indians’ puzzlement over the ignorance of the white people was understandable. We also found it interesting to learn about the Indians’ customs and beliefs. This book seemed more authentic than most I’ve read about the Indians and English and their interaction at the time of the settling of Jamestown, possibly because the author is Native American, himself.
If you want a non-romanticized story about Pocahontas, this book is well-worth looking at. I was not totally comfortable with some of the myths and beliefs that were mentioned, but we were intrigued with the descriptions of their two main gods. Two of my older children had just read Eternity in Their Hearts, and noticed that, as in many stories in that book, the Powhatan had a belief in a Creator God. However, they worshipped and feared another god. Be sure to read this book along with your children, so that you can discuss these things with them.
WARNING: There is some violence, and a few people killed, but not described in detail. I neglected to note these instances, and can’t access the book now. Chapter 11 talks about the women being in the Moon Lodge and having their moon time. Because my audience is boys, I skipped part of that.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15