Book review: The Boy who Fell off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune, by P.J. Lynch

Lynch, P.J. The Boy who Fell off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune. Candlewick Press, 2015. $17.99. ISBN 9780763665845. Unpaged. Ages 7-9. P8Q9.

Lynch Boy Who Fell Off the MayflowerThis delightful book will be useful in classroom and public libraries and valuable in a child’s home collection. It’s a fascinating retelling of a familiar story, based on real characters and events, told in an engaging style. It is told from the point of view of John Howland, an indentured servant, who is part of the group of Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower. The story follows the group as they leave the Old World and of the difficulties, fears and joys they experienced while setting up their colony in the New World. The feeling of going to an unknown place without much more than their willingness to work hard and their religious faith is very strong in the story. The short chapters tell about the adventure in a straightforward way, but allow the reader to get a clear feeling for the characters of John and his friend Lizzy, who eventually marry. I was pleased at the humbleness of the acknowledgement that the group would not have survived without the help of the Native Americans who helped them.

To me, the strength of this book is in the illustrations. The gorgeous watercolor and gouache pictures are richly detailed, and the wide format allows you to really be drawn into them. Lynch is an expert of composition and light, and it is clear how much research he put into each spread to show the context and emotion of each scene. There is a short bibliography (including a website from the Pilgrim John Howland Society) and an author’s note that gives a bit more context.

December 2015 review by Carol Schramm.

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