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James Towne: Struggle for Survival

James Towne: Struggle for Survival

by Marcia Sewall

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This moving account of James Towne's difficult early years is told from the viewpoint of one of its settlers and enhanced by original quotations.
During the first summer of 1607, half the James Towne colony died; food was scarce, and the settlers battled oppressive heat and sickness. Over the next few years, supply ships from England became the colony's lifeline,


This moving account of James Towne's difficult early years is told from the viewpoint of one of its settlers and enhanced by original quotations.
During the first summer of 1607, half the James Towne colony died; food was scarce, and the settlers battled oppressive heat and sickness. Over the next few years, supply ships from England became the colony's lifeline, as they brought much-needed stores of food and carried back offerings from the new land, as well as the settlers' homesick letters.
Conditions began to improve when Captain John Smith was elected president of the colony, and James Towne soon doubled in size. While some of the settlers had been reluctant to work, Smith required participation from all, and the colonists began to take pride in improving their conditions. Furthermore, by learning the native language and befriending a Native American girl named Pocahontas, Smith was able to establish, temporarily, an uneasy peace between the settlers and the natives whose land they had taken.
As new settlers began to arrive from England though, the resources of the budding colony were strained, and in the autumn of 1609 the colony suffered a Starving Time. Deciding to abandon James Towne at last, the colonists headed back toward England, only to have their journey intercepted by a messenger, who informed the settlers that new leaders sent by the King were due to arrive in the flailing colony any day, and urged them to return.
Not for long after their arrival, the discouraged James Towne colonists were met by a new governor and a ship full of healthy passengers with enough supplies and hope to work together to ensure James Towne's survival.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Marcia Sewall's James Towne: Struggle for Survival, told from the point of view of a settler, tracks the early days of Jamestown, Va. An economical text and Sewall's dramatic watercolor-and-ink illustrations chronicle the 1606 voyage from England, Captain John Smith's election as president of the colony and Pocahontas's famous intervention on Smith's behalf. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
When their odyssey began, little did the settlers of James Towne realize all they would face. Starvation, fighting with the indigenous people and disease would mark their first year of existence in this new land. Told from the first person point of view, readers are given a brief introduction to the settling of James Towne, Virginia. Numerous illustrations enhance the story being told. Especially enlightening are the collection of quotes from the James Towne settlers. Using these quotes, with the original words and spelling, Ms. Sewall helps the story of James Towne come alive and lets the reader see the characters of her story unfold. Following the story, the book contains a "List of Characters" and a glossary, allowing the younger reader to understand who the people in the book were, as well as the more difficult terminology. This is a great addition to a younger reader's collection. 2001, Antheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: John D. Orsborn
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Using the same format as in the People of the Breaking Day (Atheneum, 1990), Sewall offers a glimpse into life in the Jamestown Colony. Told through the voice of an 18-year-old carpenter, the narrative opens with a description of the departure of three ships from England on December 20, 1606. Readers follow the voyagers as they sail across the Atlantic, find landfall, establish a settlement, and meet with the native people. The clear narration retains the tone of 17th-century English. Short paragraphs, often defined by dates, tell of the difficult early years of the settlement. Quotes from diaries and letters (though not always identified as such) with authors and dates are often found at the bottom of the pages. Unfortunately, the narrative is somewhat dry and readers may not get a real sense of what it was like to be one of the first inhabitants of the settlement. Large, fluid watercolor-and-sepia-ink paintings illustrate the book. A few are unclear; the painting depicting Captain Smith's encounter with the Great Powhatan and Pocahontas would be difficult to decipher without the accompanying text. Helpful end material includes a map, glossary, list of characters, and information regarding the three ships. While Sewall's book offers a different angle than "The Thirteen Colonies" series (Children's) and is more attractive than the "Library of the 13 Colonies and the Lost Colony" series (Rosen), these titles offer a more comprehensive treatment of the subject. Supplemental for curriculum units.-Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What was it like on that first journey to Jamestown, or in the first years in the New World? Written as though in the words of one of the settlers, this strives to share that experience and includes actual quotes from the diaries and letters of 15 of them. The tale is filled with misadventures, hardships, and dangers right from the inauspicious beginning as ships set sail on Dec. 20, 1606, and then languish, " ‘but by unprosperous winds, were kept six weekes in sight of England.' " It was not until April of 1607 that 104 men and boys reached shore where they were met by hostile Indians and several were wounded. Returning to their ships, they traveled further up the James River and in May reached a peninsula 40 miles up. There they named their settlement James Towne for King James. The settlement did not prosper; George Percy, a Gentleman, notes: " ‘There were never Englishmen left in a foreigne Countrey in such miserie as wee were in this new discovered Virginia.' " Plagued by mosquitoes, hostile Indians, rotten food, fires that nearly destroyed the village, and gentlemen unable or unwilling to work; the colony nearly did not survive. Sewall, who is noted for her young American histories (Pilgrims of Plimoth, 1986, etc.) weaves a fascinating story and illustrates the adventure with her signature watercolor-and-sepia-ink drawings. She concludes with a list of characters quoted, a glossary, and selected source material. The brief quotes from primary sources and the text that elaborates on the quotes make history come alive for young readers. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.40(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Marcia Sewall is the author and illustrator of many award-winning books
for children, including Pilgrims of Plimoth, winner of the 1986 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction; People of the Breaking Day; Thunder From the Clear Sky; and, most recently, Nickommoh!, written by Jackie French Koller. She is a graduate of Brown University and has studied and taught at various art schools. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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