Roanoke, the Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History

Roanoke, the Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History

by Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Roger Roth Sr., Jane Yolen, Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
In 1587 John White was chosen by Sir Walter Raleigh to lead a new colony at Roanoke off the Atlantic coast. After bringing many men, women, and children to the new land, White went back to England to gather supplies for the long winter. But when he finally returned to the fort almost three years later, he found that all of the colonists had vanished. The only signs of


In 1587 John White was chosen by Sir Walter Raleigh to lead a new colony at Roanoke off the Atlantic coast. After bringing many men, women, and children to the new land, White went back to England to gather supplies for the long winter. But when he finally returned to the fort almost three years later, he found that all of the colonists had vanished. The only signs of life left were the letters CRO carved into a tree and the word CROATOAN carved into one of the fort's posts. Some people think that the Spanish army captured the colonists; some people think that the local native people murdered them; others think that the colonists went off to live with the native people and start a new life. Still others think that the colonists tried to sail home to England and were lost at sea. No one knows for sure.
Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the lost colony of Roanoke. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The third volume in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, Roanoke: The Lost Colony by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple, illus. by Roger Roth, once again invites readers to use their detective skills to solve a puzzle from the past. In this intriguing entry, English colonists at Roanoke vanish sometime between 1587 and 1590, accompanied by atmospheric pencil and watercolor artwork. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Third in the "Unsolved Mystery from History" series, this volume examines the background of the famous "lost colony" of Roanoke off North Carolina's Atlantic coast. The facts are presented in a boxed narrative while sidebars, in the form of a girl-investigator's spiral-bound notebook and vocabulary defined on yellow Post-It notes, include extra information. Although there were no survivors apparent when John White finally returned from England, rumors, clues such as nearby Lumbee tribe members with family names the same as some Roanoke settlers, and a recently discovered signet ring provide tantalizing bits of information for detectives to mull. As in previous titles, the authors summarize in Q&A format the five theories put forth by historians and, in one case, folklorists (Virginia Dare became a white doe when she refused to marry an old medicine man), and re-present the evidence. Says the girl detective whose investigations frame the story, "I've got my own theory about what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. And maybe—now—you do too," a sure invitation to go back and read the book one more time to check your theory. Roth's watercolors, some with textured pencil detail, evoke the era unobtrusively. The only thing this mystery lacks is a map so that young readers unfamiliar with Roanoke can place the story geographically. Otherwise, it's a fine contribution to middle elementary history studies and a good open-ended mystery in its own right. 2003, Simon & Schuster, Ages 7 to 10.
— Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-A young narrator who wants to be a detective when she grows up tells the story of the English colonists who went to Roanoke Island in 1587 and disappeared almost without a trace. A framed box of text, multicolored Post-its that define words, and a small notebook page that fleshes out information are laid over each double-page, pencil-and-watercolor painting. The balanced text is written in declarative, factual language that can be a bit abrupt at times and leaves little room for the poignancy and drama that is inherent in the story. A two-page concluding section offers a time line and five traditional theories of what might have happened, each followed by questions that help test the premise. The narrator prompts children to come to their own conclusions from the clues presented. The idea is an intriguing one but answers to some of the questions are available only through additional research or speculation. In addition, pieces of evidence that might be helpful, such as tree-ring evidence of a possible great drought at the time, are omitted. A detective trying to come up with reasonable theories would also benefit from a good map. Both text and full-color naturalistic illustrations are attentive to the Native American perspective, and Colonial attitudes toward native peoples are explained, as are the results of those attitudes. While appeal is limited, the book may prove useful despite its flaws.-Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gimmicky "mystery from history" is presented with the true detective work leached out of it and replaced with a phony framework meant to simulate clue-tracking. A frame story presents a girl who turns her enjoyment of the detective work of history to the lost colony of Roanoke. The subsequent narrative tells the story of the colonists, accompanied by full-bleed illustrations overlaid with mock notepaper explaining details and faux sticky-notes that randomly define terms-"destination" and "vicinity," for instance, but not the much more difficult "politics." The true shame of this effort, however, is that there is no attempt to reveal what is really exciting about history: how we know about the few details we have. This narrative is followed by a listing of five hypotheses varying from plausible to mystical, inviting readers to form their own. If the reader does, however, it is not because the preceding work has given her any idea how to formulate such a speculation. As an account of the lost colony, this is adequate; as a true mystery from history, it misses the boat. (bibliography, Web sites) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Unsolved Mystery from History Series
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.25(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.40(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Heidi Elizabet Yolen Stemple is Jane Yolen's daughter and sometime writing partner. Together they wrote the Unsolved Mysteries from History series. Heidi lives in Hatfield, MA.

Roger Roth, Sr., has partnered with Dr. Hanby in his ministry and writing for many years. Together they oversee Mark Hanby Ministries/Fathers Heart Ministries, an internationally recognized teaching and resource center.

Jane Yolen is an award-winning author who has written more than 200 books for children, including the bestseller How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner Owl Moon. She is known for her beautiful poetry and has even been called “the Hans Christian Anderson of America” (Newsweek). Jane Yolen lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Visit her at

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