Title: Stink Alley
Author: Jamie Gilson
Major Themes: Historical Fiction, Holland, Pilgrims
Synopsis: Living with the Puritans in Holland, Lizzy must decide what influence—Puritan or Dutch—she will follow, and whether or not she will try to protect Elder Brewster from being discovered.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started Stink Alley, but it turned out to be a humorous story about a girl who lived with the Puritans while they lived in Holland. This was a portion of their story I hadn’t heard or read of much before, so it was fun to see a new side to the historical people that are so highly esteemed among some circles these days.
Lizzy has a problem. Since she’s had to live with Elder Brewster’s family after her parent’s death, she feels more of a burden to them than a help, and they aren’t very encouraging toward her, either. Feeling like she might drown if she’s held under by a harsh ruling hand for much longer, she decides to go out and find work. But when she meets a boy who teases her to no end and draws pictures when she isn’t looking, yet is interested in her faith, Lizzy feels like her life might just be turning a bit happier. That is, until some of her Puritan friends decide they’ve had enough of their parent’s faith and head off to join the army. What should she do then—side with them, or tell the Brewsters that things are going wrong for their little group again?
My favorite part of Stink Alley was probably the historical perspective on the Brewsters it gave. I don’t know how accurate it is, although I know the Separatists were pretty strict. I was made curious about that family, though, and would like to research them more.
I also loved the historical context this story gave to history. It’s one thing to know the facts—and those were sprinkled throughout pretty well. But it’s another thing to see how said facts fit into the bigger picture. And for me, this was that bigger picture, which I was thankful for.
I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a different glimpse of the founding fathers, and what brought them to where they were when they arrived in North America. A good book!
WARNING: In chapter 1, there is mention of a man killed in a windmill accident. In chapter 5, there is a story of a witch who was killed, and ch. 8 mentions cannibals and a few of the tortures used in England on those who didn’t obey the King. Chapter 17 mentions a girl using the bathroom, and a boy who drew a picture of her doing so.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15