Clyde Robert Bulla has done a fine job of making the story of Squanto, the “Indian boy” who became a great friend to the Pilgrim Fathers, accessible to young readers. The book is intended, I guess, for children aged roughly 6-10 and so both the vocabulary and the structure are kept relatively simple. Nonetheless, the author manages to convey the essential elements of the story in a balanced and age-appropriate way.
We have slavery and suffering but we also have hope and heroism. There is no crude stereotyping of either the colonists or the colonised, but rather we see the messy reality of life. What I like about this book, though, is the equally realistic emphasis it places on virtuous behaviour. We hear about people treating each other well, and not just about the times when there was exploitation. A good example is when Squanto is sold into slavery in Spain:
The next day the Indians were tied with ropes again. They were tied so that they could stand up and walk.
Captain Hunt and his men led them off into the city. People on the streets stopped to look. Some of them were men in long brown robes.
Squanto heard two of Captain Hunt’s sailors talking.
“See the Brothers in their brown robes,” said one.
“Who are they?” asked the other.
“They are good men of the church,” said the first sailor.
A man with gold rings in his ears pulled Squanto off the block. He poured a bag of money into Captain Hunt’s hands and led Squanto across the square.
Squanto saw the two men still looking at him.
He broke away from the man who had bought him. He ran as fast as he could with the ropes on his legs. He threw himself down before the men in the brown robes.
“Oh help!” he cried. “I no be slave. No, no! Oh help, please!”
The men looked down at him. “English!” said one of them. “He speaks English!”
The man with gold earrings came running after Squanto. He saw the two men and stopped.
Squanto lay still. He heard the voice of the man who had bought him. He heard the voices of the other two men. They talked for a long time.
He could not understand the language. He never knew what was said. But at last the man who had bought him went away.
The men in brown robes helped Squanto to his feet.
“Come,” said one of them. “You are free.”
The two men called themselves Brother Luis and Brother Diego.
Brother Luis could speak English. He talked to Squanto as they walked through the streets.
“Where is your home?” he asked.
“America – far across sea,” said Squanto.
They climbed a hill to a church high above the city. Behind the church was a square of small white houses. In front of the houses were gardens and fruit trees.
“Welcome,”said Brother Luis. “Welcome to our home.”
Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims is just 112-pages long but it would be a fine addition to any home library.