Dear America: A Journey to the New World by Kathryn Lasky (New edition published by Scholastic, September 1, 2010; originally published in 1996)
Remember Patience Whipple, called Mem by her family, is twelve years old in 1620, when her family, in search of religious freedom, sails to the new world on the Mayflower. Mem is a bit frightened at the prospect of living in this wild new land, having heard tales of strange and frightening native people who attack the settlers. The sea voyage is long and tedious, full of seasickness, daily boredom, and teasing from the mean Billington boys.
When the Pilgrims arrive in the new world, Mem finds it is not the wild Indians they have to fear; rather, the danger they face is from hunger and disease. The first winter is long and cold, and many of the settlers become sick and die. Mem must deal with her fears for her family and friends, and eventually the loss of her mother, which leaves her struggling to find the strength and courage to go on.
I first read A Journey to the New World in 1996, when it was originally published as one of the first books in the Dear America series. Each book in the series is the fictional diary of a preteen or young teenage girl living during an important time in American history. Mem’s fictional diary is both entertaining and educational, bringing to life the journey on the Mayflower and the settling of Plymouth Colony, as well as the hopes, dreams, and fears of a young girl settling in a strange new land. The Dear America series truly brings history to life and helped me develop a love for historical fiction, and I am glad to see the series is being brought back into print for a new generation of readers. Highly recommended.