Title: The Mayflower Secret
Author: Dave & Neta Jackson
Series: Trailblazer Books
Major Themes: Colonial America, Massachusetts, Mayflower, Pilgrims, Plymouth
Synopsis: After being the last person to see Dorothy Bradford alive on the Mayflower, Elizabeth Tilley felt crushed by her guilt at not being able to bring herself to tell anyone.
I have enjoyed the Trailblazer Books ever since I came across the first ones soon after they were published, in the early 1990s. Dave & Neta Jackson have a way of bringing history to life for children in a very engaging way. The Mayflower Secret is no exception. One thing we enjoyed about this one was recognizing characters from other accounts we had read about the Pilgrims—although the people’s personalities differed from story to story!
Elizabeth Tilley, age 13, was traveling with her father and mother to the New World on the Mayflower. The voyage was hard, but life was even harder once they arrived at their destination. As they spent the winter anchored off Cape Cod, Elizabeth helped nurse the sick and watched her parents die…and was the last to see Dorothy Bradford, whom she looked down on, alive. What should Elizabeth do now? With no family, should she go back to England? How could she go on living where she saw Dorothy’s bereaved husband every day, though, knowing that she kept a secret from him?
This story covers the first two or three years of life in Plymouth. It vividly shows the hardships faced by the Pilgrims as they began their new lives in a new land, and the struggles they faced, both physically and mentally. Elizabeth struggled with feeling like she didn’t belong anywhere, as well as her feelings of guilt for not having told anyone she saw Dorothy just before her disappearance. She also felt bad for looking down on John Howland for being a servant—and now he was the heir of Governor Carver’s estate, while she was nobody! Would life ever turn right side up again?
I liked the theme of honesty that runs through this story. Because Elizabeth was not honest, and did not speak up, for fear of what others would think of her, she had to live with guilt for years. This guilt nearly crushed her, and greatly affected her relationship with the other people around her. Only when she became willing to be totally honest was she able to be happy again.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12