Three Young Pilgrims

By Cheryl Harness, 1992, Aladdin Picturebooks

This book was my first real introduction to the Pilgrims; it is the book that made them real for me. Sure, I had heard about them in elementary school – those men who wore those black hats and shoes with buckles on them, and who invited the Indians (we called them that back then) to Thanksgiving dinner and ate turkey and pumpkin pie or something like that… But this is the book that first brought them and their story to life for me.

Told as the story of the three Allerton children (the youngest of whom, Mary, was the last of the Pilgrims to die in 1699), what makes this book come alive is the illustrations. Looking through it to choose images to scan, I almost wanted to scan them all. Every page is wonderful!

First Cheryl Harness shows us the different decks of the Mayflower: what they looked like, and what each was used for. She shows us how crowded the Pilgrims were on board and how dark and dreary it was below decks. You can almost feel their sickness and discouragement, but also their tender care for one another.

Best of all are the maps. Why can’t all books have maps like these? How can anyone understand what is happening if they can’t see where it was happening? You will see where it all happened in this one.

And the illustrations show us, through group portraits, the Saints (essentially, the Puritans) and the Strangers (others who joined the Saints on the voyage to found a new colony, but who had different religious beliefs.) Every single person who came to Plymouth is depicted, and a little icon by their name shows which ones survived the first winter. It was only half of them.

And that is the illustration that helped me begin to understand – for the first time – what it cost those very real people to start the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first colony founded by family groups, rather than by gentlemen adventurers. The first colony founded on the principle of freedom to obey and worship God according to the principles in the Bible, rather than according to the dictates of king or pope.

This lavishly-illustrated picture book is a perfect book for very young readers. But the reverence with which the author tells this story of the Pilgrims gives it the power to move adult hearts also.

I highly recommend it for all ages.