Synopses & Reviews
Long before Harry Houdini thrilled the world with his impossible deeds, America had produced an escape artist whose biography reads like an adventure novel.
Many readers will know John Smith as the man rescued from death by Pocahontas, but Smith's story included a series of fantastic episodes: escape from imprisonment, ambush by Indians, attacks by ruthless sea pirates, and more escapades than seem possible in one life.
Now, just in time for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, author Rosalyn Schanzer recounts the full details of John Smith's eventful life in her engaging storytelling style, complemented with a series of entertaining illustrations.
Smith's role as the president of the pioneering colony of Jamestown is well known to schoolchildren. Schanzer's compelling narrative adds the perspective of Smith's English background to his better known adventures in America. Readers are given a complete portrait of the intrepid explorer and adventurer, of the fighter whose battling spirit always prevailed, and of the writer whose work was to shape the idea of the American Dream.
Smith's story is punctuated by several impossibly daring escapes. His final escape left us with the rich legacy of his life story: through his writings, he escaped the fate of dying unknown. He returned to England as a poor man with a rich trove of memories, spending his final years writing the popular books that defined colonial America in tales of excitement and courage.
"The lore of Captain John Smith extends far beyond the familiar Pocahontas story, as Schanzer (How We Crossed the West) attests in this vivid, extensively documented biography of the 17th-century explorer. Her inventive chronological format alternately expands and condenses Smith's feats and far-flung journeys, as she describes his numerous death-defying escapes (e.g., from shipwrecks, Turkish slave masters and Native American warriors). Interspersed between chapters (with titles such as 'Escape Number One: Our Hero Is Tossed into the Briny Deep and Becomes a Pirate'), spreads appear that feature a map of Smith's travels on the left with numbers that correspond to captioned panel illustrations on the right. Schanzer offsets the formal borders with the cartoonlike artwork within; a smiling, ruddy-cheeked Smith often winks or waves at readers, even as a baby. Yet the cheery illustrative style belies the often harsh nature of Smith's experiences, such as the time he was brutally beaten as a slave near the Black Sea or when Native Americans burn one of his fellow explorers at the stake (depicted in a small spot illustration). The author indeed accomplishes her aim of showing that 'this swashbuckling Englishman was a heroic warrior,...a daring world explorer, a president, a mapmaker, a peacekeeper' and finally an author. Schanzer indicates in endnotes that she bases her account on Smith's own writings. Students of history will most appreciate the new light shed on this plucky voyager, but adventure fans will also be swept up in his escapades. Ages 9-14." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A fascinating biography of intrepid explorer and adventurer John Smith--a fighter who made several daring escapes, and a writer who brought the stories of colonial America to life--is published to coincide with the four-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.
About the Author
Rosalyn Schanzer is the award-winning author and illustrator of numerous books for children. She lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia.