By Tim Vicary
Oxford Bookworms Library - Stage 1 (2000)
400 headwords; Lexile measure 470L; Grades 6-10
This is a graded reader meant for young readers or learners of English as a second language. It's a Stage 1 book, so the vocabulary is limited, and the author has to tell the story in simple words and as straight-forwardly as possible. Dialog is imagined, and the illustrations are meant to aid in telling the story.
The author states that he read John Smith's A General History of Virginia, and the story conforms generally to John Smith's version. However, a one-sided love story of Pocahontas for John Smith is imagined in this book,, so we can't say the book is accurate. Too much is made of her longing for John Smith with the beautiful blue eyes (an idea that John Smith never hinted at). Also, the portrayal of the Indians in this book makes them appear rather pathetic, with John Smith portrayed as a hero, dominating all those around him.
The rescue story has a bit of nuance, as it imagines Pocahontas conferring with her father about what to do with John Smith before she performs the rescue scene, thus conforming to one of the current interpretations of the story, that they were acting out an adoption ritual. The final conversation between Pocahontas and John Smith in England is a really unfortunate interpretation, as it imagines her saying how much she loved him and how she was broken-hearted when he left Jamestown. Her supposed unrequited love is one explanation for this reported dialog, but historians have made other more plausible ones.
This version of the Pocahontas story is about half fiction, so I can't really recommend it. Students studying history or looking for an actual biography should definitely avoid it. However, as a graded reader meant to foster reading skills, I'd say it's reasonably successful. It's a story for young people in the myths & legends genre, but based on a historical person.
The True Story of Pocahontas; Step Into Reading 3
by Lucille Recht Penner (1994)
Lexile measure 440L; Guided Reading Level N; DRA 30; Grades Pre-K, K, 1, 2
Like the book directly above, this is a graded reader. However, this one is meant for young children, with large type and kid-friendly color illustrations, Interestingly, this book tries to have a more Indian-centered story. Whereas the Oxford book above has the Indians afraid of the settlers, this book has it reversed, with the English afraid to leave their fort. Both books have Pocahontas saving John Smith (that's what she's famous for, after all) However, this book does not mention any kind of love story between Pocahontas and John Smith. He's just a character that interacts with her for a while and then leaves. The first 90% of this book is pretty faithful to the history of Pocahontas that we know. However, perhaps because the book is for small children, it chooses to avoid the sad ending that a truthful account would require. In the end, Pocahontas and John Smith meet once more in England and have a friendly chat. There is no mention of Pocahontas's scolding of John Smith or her unfortunate demise. In fact, the final sentences are: "Pocahontas stayed in England for the rest of her life. But the people of American will always remember her." I have to admit, it's a rather ingenious way to make a factual statement without telling the whole sad truth!
The Story of Pocahontas (In Easy-to=Read Type)
By Brian Doherty
Dover Children's Thrift Classics (1994)
Presumed grades 3-7
This is a fairly bizarre telling of the Pocahontas story that features Nantaquas as a main character.* At one point, before Pocahontas has the opportunity to rescue John Smith, she is actually rescued by Smith first! Later, when Smith needs rescuing, Pocahontas repays the favor.
* [A supposed older brother of Pocahontas, Nantaquas was mentioned in the (presumed) 1616 letter Smith wrote to Queen Anne. He spoke of this letter in 1624.]
As a story, it's readable enough, and possibly entertaining for children. However, it is so fictionalized, and so many issues are glossed over, that I feel this book is one of the worst I've read from a historical point of view. I would stay away from this one. The illustrations are unconvincing as well.
The Double Life of Pocahontas
by Jean Fritz
Puffin Books (1983)
Lexile measure 910L; Guided Reading Level T; DRA 50; Grades 6-12
Of the children's books on Pocahontas that I've read, this is one of the better ones, though it's certainly not for young kids. I would say this one is for junior high school students or even first and second year high school students. It covers most of the standard Pocahontas story and introduces a lot of characters. Considering when it was written, it's fairly progressive, trying to find a middle ground between an Indian perspective and the colonizer myth. It portrays Pocahontas as being torn between two worlds.
Many will still find this book to be too biased on the colonizer side, as it makes a little too much of Pocahontas's affection for John Smith. In the last chapter, it has her lamenting that Smith never comes to visit her, and when he finally does, she is overcome with emotion. The book also has her praying to stay in England instead of returning to her home. Interestingly, it has her feeling distant from John Rolfe, who wants to remove the "Indian-ness" from her.
An interesting idea is the account of the child Pocahontas playing with the colony boys and learning the phrase, "Love you not me?" which she is presumed to have taught the other Indian girls for use in their famous dance before John Smith some years later. Overall, I recommend this book, though I realize people on both the Indian side and the colonizer side will not be entirely satisfied.
by Shannon Zemlicka; illustrations by Jeni Reeves
First Avenue Editions; Lerner Publishing Group; Millbrook Press (2002)
Lexile measure 430L; grades 3-5; guided reading level L; grade level equivalent 2.1
I rather like this book for young readers, and the illustrations are great. I still have some things to nitpick, but I think the pluses outweigh the minuses. On the plus side, this book gives a nuanced view of the John Smith rescue story. First it tells the story much as other books have done. Then it says that Smith may have made it all up. At a young age, then, readers are asked to hold two conflicting possibilities in their mind. Interesting. Next, rather than portray Pocahontas and John Smith in a romance, the two are shown to be good friends, chatting when possible and teaching each other their own language. The second rescue of John Smith at night in the woods is reported without skepticism. Next, the book skips ahead to when Pocahontas is a young adult and suddenly she is kidnapped. She marries John Rolfe, who says he loves her, but we are told that she may not have loved him back, as she was a prisoner. This seems reasonable, and is very progressive for a children's book. We are also told that she may not have truly accepted her Christian religion, and we can't be sure her marriage was happy. Her death is described as traditional history tells us, with no specific cause of death, but from illness. These are all reasonable points, and rare in a children's book. I wonder what children think of it?
As a minor nitpick, the book says early on that Pocahontas, being the daughter of a chief, didn't have to work growing up, as her family had servants to grow food and make clothes. I'm not sure that's completely supported by anthropologists, although some historians hint that as the daughter of Wahunsenaca, she may have had a somewhat privileged upbringing.
Pocahontas: An American Princess
by Joyce Milton; illustrations by Shelly Hehenberger
Penguin Young Readers Level 4 (2000)
Lexile measure (about?) 460L; guided reading level N; interest level grades 2-4; grade level equivalent 3
The all-color illustrations are attractive, but a few of them may not be accurate. First are the sizes of the English ships, which seem to rival the Titanic. Next, the Powhatan canoe is clearly not a dugout. Even Disney got this right. I have some doubts about the clothing and hairstyles, but no books really get this right, or even try to, as books for kids don't want to portray nakedness, and the real Powhatan look doesn't seem to appeal to artists.
I have a number of quibbles with the text, but the last page really got my attention. The author writes: "But before the ship reached the open sea, Pocahontas had died. Pocahontas was buried in England. John Rolfe took their son Thomas back home to Virginia. To this day, there are families in Virginia who can trace their history back to this early American princess. And now you know the true story of Pocahontas."
I suppose there could be worse errors, but it's funny to see Milton say Rolfe took his son back to Virginia - he did not, and worried about his reputation for not doing so - followed by the "true story" comment. It's no wonder Linwood Custalow decided to write a myth of his own. As with some other books, this one has Pocahontas "longing to stay in England in the country of John Smith." Apparently her death prevented an impending love triangle. Naturally, the famous John Smith rescue is in evidence, though the idea that the rescue was staged is offered. The lesser known second rescue is mentioned. too. On the positive side, some details of the Pocahontas story which don't usually appear in kids" books do appear here. For example, we learn that John Smith got burned and had to leave for England. Also, the settlers tried to get Powhatan to bow down and accept the rule of the English king, which he refused to do.
This book is probably a bit better than I made it sound. It's not one of the worst. Ultimately, I judge this book to be about 1/3 fiction, with some moments of clarity.
The Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith
by E. Boyd Smith
Houghton Mifflin Company (2015) reduced size paperback edition based on the original illustrated version published in 1906
Free e-book at Project Gutenberg
This is NOT the original book by E. Boyd Smith, which is excellent, mainly due to the fantastic artwork (see e-book version above). This paperback version is terrible and unlikely to appeal to the casual buyer. I'm thinking now that it exists only to profit from unsuspecting customers who randomly choose it on Amazon.
Pocahontas: Young Peacemaker (Childhood of Famous Americans)
by Leslie Gourse; illustrated by Meryl Henderson
Aladdin Paperbacks; Simon & Schuster (1996)
Lexile measure 660L; grade level 4-6; age range 8-12
Oh, man. This book is why I should write a paper on children's books about Pocahontas. I feel like the author tried hard to include all the relevant, known history about Pocahontas, and she even managed to cast some doubt on the John Smith rescue, saying it may have been a hoax. She also tried to represent the Powhatan side of things, frequently featuring Powhatan voicing his concerns about the English without making him appear stupid or afraid. On the other hand, the outlook is always cheerfully supportive of the English colonizers and their motives, which I suppose it had to be, or it would never have been published in this series for children on "Famous Americans." There are many things to criticize, such as how Pocahontas "felt equally comfortable with the English and her own people" and how she happily agreed to serve as the colony's representative to London, saying "That's a wonderful idea. ... I'd be honored to go." Ultimately, I can't see Native Americans being pleased with the book, but it does have some nuance, and tries to be accurate and balanced in its 20th century way. I rank this book below the Elisa Carbone, Jean Fritz and Shannon Zemlicka books.
There's a historical point I need to research, which is why books from this era seem to think Pocahontas interacted with John Smith even before his famous rescue scene. I've seen that in other books as well (see Doherty above). This is a historically doubtful aspect of this book, as it implies that Pocahontas was already friends with Smith, which is why she supposedly rescued him.
by Caryn Jenner
DL Readers; Beginning to Read Alone Level 2 (2000)
Lexile measure 290; grade level 1-2; age range 6-7
This is a large type book meant for very young readers. It's another one of those books that assumes Pocahontas met regularly with the colonists right from the moment they landed. It then, somewhat more accurately, sticks to the bare bones of the commonly told Pocahontas story. The John Smith rescue and second rescue are told as literal truth. Pocahontas and the English colonists are all portrayed as enthusiastic and happy. Only the Powhatan warriors appear to be perpetually angry and distrustful. Pocahontas is portrayed as the peaceful mediator. She goes from being kidnapped, to being dressed in "heavy" English clothes to going to church with her new English friends in the blink of an eye. Because the book is for young readers, the book avoids most controversy. However, it does mention the Indians wanting to attack and kill the English and John Smith. The kidnap by the English is glossed over, and other than that, there is little indication the English are in any way bad actors. In this telling, it's Pocahontas who wants to marry John Rolfe, not the other way around. She dies in the end, so it's faithful to the truth on that point. As with many books from this time period, the Sedgeford Hall Portrait incorrectly appears as an illustration of Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe.
The inside illustrations are colorful and have a comic book quality. They don't seem to be too culturally inaccurate, except for Pocahontas's hairstyle and clothing. The cover art, on the other hand, inexplicably uses very inaccurate, out-dated artwork with Plains Indian tepees and Aztec (?) costumes. Extremely weird choice of cover art, considering the quality of the art used inside.
Pocahontas: Princess of the New World
by Kathleen Krull; pictures by David Diaz
Walker & Company, New York (2007)
This large, color illustration picture book for children is unique among the Pocahontas books reviewed here, as it seems to be a book for parents to read to their children, not really one that children are expected to read themselves, as the type is small and the vocabulary fairly challenging. The illustrations are stylized and attractive, with a kind of "paper-cut" quality to them. I rather like this one and rank it in the top tier, but of course, I have some issues.
According to this book, Pocahontas had "powerful" arms from paddling her dugout canoe. She also avoided certain jobs that were beneath her status. The author accepts that Pocahontas saved John Smith twice, though the author at least leaves open the possibility that the first "rescue" was part of a role-play..The author believes she fell in love with John Rolfe and that she was furious with her father for not rescuing her. Clearly, much of this is conjecture, but it conforms fairly well with what many historians have offered. The author also qualifies the account by saying that we only have English sources, so there is room for doubt about almost everything. This book tells a very nuanced story, but I wonder if children can really follow the caveats, disclaimers and multiple viewpoints. On the other hand, those features are what make this book unique and valuable.
Pocahontas and the Strangers
by Clyde Robert Bulla; illustrated by Peter Burchard
Scholastic Inc. (1971)
Lexile measure 370L; grade level 2-5; RL-4; age range 7-10
The Pocahontas in this fictionalized telling is willful and independent, and unceasingly openhearted towards the English strangers, despite her tribe's continued efforts to rein her in. I like that the author, almost 50 years ago, portrayed the Powhatan Indians as wary and foresighted, and with sympathy towards their plight. This is a good version of the story, especially for its time, told as much as possible from the imagined viewpoint of Pocahontas and the Indians. Most of the historical aspects of what we know appear intact (including some killings) and chronologically accurate. Nevertheless, there are some inaccuracies, and I have nitpicks as well as intermittent praise and shower thoughts.
In Their Own Words: Pocahontas
by George Sullivan
Scholastic Reference (2001)
Lexile measure 680L; grade level 3-7; age range: 8-12
Unlike the graded readers and children's books above, this book is not in the form of a historical novel, but rather a straight reference-type history for young people. It sticks very closely to the commonly reported records on Pocahontas, which means the voices of the original chroniclers, John Smith and William Strachey, are at the forefront. Because this book came out before the revisionist works of Rountree, Gunn Allen and Townsend, the colonizer slant appears rather strong in comparison. That said, this book is one I would recommend, with reservations. Readers should understand that Native Americans aren't well represented. Nevertheless, most of the basic known facts about Pocahontas emerge without too much embellishment. There is an anachronistic error, in that this book, like many that came before it, claims that the Sedgeford Hall Portrait is of Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe. However, we learned in 2010, roughly 9 years after the publication of this book, that the portrait is not of Pocahontas at all. Of course, we should also consider some of the claims of John Smith to be suspect, but this book accepts most of them without skepticism. On the plus side, it does mention the various interpretations of the John Smith rescue, including the possibility that it didn't happen at all. It's funny that this book is found in a series called "In Their Own Words," since Pocahontas left no words of her own. Every word attributed to her comes second-hand. This book will not appeal to young children; it's more of a junior high, early high school book. I rate it as "not bad."
Pocahontas: A Life in Two Worlds
by Victoria Garrett Jones
Sterling Biographies (2010)
Lexile Measure 1230L; age range 10-18+
This is one of the recommended treatments of Pocahontas, but of course, I will nitpick on several points. Published in 2010, it's a mini-encyclopedia style biography of Pocahontas combined with a general summary of the Jamestown story. It aims to be a factual telling of the story, but with a few claims that go beyond what we can actually say with certainty. There are color illustrations on almost every page, which should please the junior high level students it's aimed at. For those unwilling to tackle Price's Love & Hate or Horn's A Land as God Made It, this book offers a concise summary of the Jamestown story that even adults can enjoy. The book is tilted toward the Eurocentric side of the story, but it tries to present the Powhatan viewpoint with sympathy. Following are the negatives, though I'd like to emphasize that this is not a bad book. Just be aware of these issues:
Young Pocahontas in the Indian World
by Helen Rountree
Printed by J & R Graphic Services Inc. (1995)
I respect Helen Rountree as the foremost authority on Powhatan history and anthropology and have read and 'reviewed' several of her books.. She was kind enough to correspond with me by email, though not about this book. That said, I am rather unenthusiastic about this particular work. It's kind of illustrative of the problem of telling the Pocahontas story while trying to stick to what we actually know. We have so few details about Pocahontas's early years that there just isn't much to be said. Plus, Rountree made the editorial choice to end the story before the marriage of Pocahontas to Rolfe and their voyage to England, saying "all of that is another story." What's left is unlikely to appeal to many children, for whom this book is presumably aimed. Rountree, relying on her anthropological research, devotes almost the whole book (52 pages) to telling how a girl of 11 or 12 would have passed her time in her Powhatan village in each of the growing seasons. For example, in early summer, she would have helped search for edible greens and gather firewood. In late summer, she would have gone out in early morning to harvest corn with her mother, Later in the day, she would have watched the village women make clay pots. Like this, most of the book is devoted to daily Powhatan life. If your child is a budding anthropologist, or writing a report on Powhatan culture, this book may work for you. It's certainly got a unique angle, and it avoids the romantic speculation that I've criticized in most of the books appearing on this page. On the other hand, if you're looking for the truth about Pocahontas, you may be disappointed to learn that the reality is so mundane. Consider this a very 'niche' selection. I suppose it deserves credit for dispelling some of the myths.
First People: The Early Indians of Virginia
by Keith Egloff & Deborah Woodward
University of Virginia Press (1992, 2006)
This book seems to be for junior high and high school students who are writing reports on the Virginia Indians, and one imagines it on the shelves of every public school in the Commonwealth. It's a reference book, so it's not exactly a page-turner, but it contains adequate, simply written information on the native populations of Virginia from 15,000 years ago to the present day. The chapter on European Contact contains a 9-page summary of the Jamestown/Powhatan story. The chapter on Virginia Indians Today tells a bit about each of the 8 tribes that remain. At 96 pages, including the lists and resources at the end, it's a quick read.
Blood on the River
by Elisa Carbone
Puffin Books (2006)
Lexile Measure 820L; age range 12-16
A historical novel for young adults told from the point of view of the servant boy, Samuel Collier, this is one of the best versions of the Jamestown and Pocahontas stories. It is fictionalized, but stays mostly faithful to real events that were recorded by the original chroniclers. It is respectful of the Indians and shows the mistakes and negative aspects of the colonists. Pocahontas makes a few appearances, but her part is fairly minor. The book may be a little too admiring of John Smith, and the imagined words of Pocahontas don't always ring true, but generally, I give this book high marks for being both an interesting read and a fairly accurate portrayal of the Jamestown story as we understand it. I like how Carbone avoids making an omniscient dramatization of the Pocahontas rescue of John Smith by having Smith tell of the event to his servant, the narrator, Samuel Collier. By doing so, Smith maintains his actual role as an 'unreliable narrator', which leaves open the possibility that Smith's account is not 100% accurate. We are told later (by Namontack) that the event was a ritual with Pocahontas as a participant. For students who are studying American colonization in history class, this book would make great supplemental reading. Of the historical novels on this page, this is the one to get for readers within the recommended age range.
Pocahontas - True Princess
By Mari Hanes (1995)
With cover art reminiscent of “Dick and Jane”, a pet otter in place of Disney’s raccoon, and a decidedly Christian slant (Multnomah is a Christian books publisher), this is one of the more 'quaint' versions of the Pocahontas story. Much is made of Pocahontas turning away from devil worship and embracing Jesus Christ as her redeemer; "... Jesus died on the cross so we ourselves don't have to make any blood sacrifices" p. 136. Heavily fictionalized, the book features both questionable Powhatan culture (birchbark canoes, human sacrifice, Pocahontas a member of the 'Algonquin tribe') and doubtful Jamestown history (a sympathetic Percy, Pocahontas present at Jamestown for most significant events, her tending to the ill settlers like an Indian Florence Nightingale p. 92, her banishment to Potomac for betraying her father p. 111), Some aspects of culture and history, though, are accurate enough. As a story, it’s readable, but anyone not specifically seeking a Christian slant should probably avoid it. This is another book that I suspect inspired Custalow & Daniel to publish their ‘corrective’ but equally mythical version of the Pocahontas story. One point that makes me smile is that the author chose to make Pocahontas's mother Potomac (Patawomeck) p. 111. While not necessarily accurate, the Patawomecks are one of the Powhatan tribes that currently claim Pocahontas. This detail in the book helps counter recent misinformation about Pocahontas’s tribal identity, which is often falsely said to be Mattaponi. To be clear, the actual tribe of Pocahontas is unknown and could be Patawomeck, Mattaponi, Pamunkey or any of the original 30+ tribes identified in the first years of Jamestown..
The Princess Pocahontas
by Virginia Watson (1916)
The first thing anyone should know about this book for young adults is that it was written in 1916 and is in the public domain. As such, it is available as an e-book for free on Amazon and Project Gutenberg. The HTML version on Project Gutenberg even has an author introduction that somehow didn't make it into the rip-off, page numberless, no illustration paper edition that I acquired (cover at right; don't buy this one!). The next thing worth knowing is that the writing style will seem annoyingly outdated to some readers, as the author chose a vaguely Elizabethan Era vocabulary of 'thees" and 'thous' for the characters, including the Indians. Here's Nautauquas calling out to Pocahontas: "Matoaka, whither goest thou?" That said, this fictionalized Pocahontas story was actually pretty progressive for its time, as the Indians were treated sympathetically and given as much depth of character as the colonizers. The legendary rescue is here, unsurprisingly, and while it follows many of the historical events, there are numerous errors and embellishments. I'm not sure why anyone would choose to buy this book now in the 21st Century, but it has some merit as an example from its era. All things considered, it's not horrible for a free book that is long past its sell-by date. On the other hand, I may be overly accepting of this offering, having been exposed to so many fictional versions of Pocahontas's life. I guess I've become somewhat immune to the outrageous imaginings and willing to award it a handicap for the time in which it was written.
Smith: John Smith and the Settlement of Jamestown (Exploring the World)
by Robin S. Doak
Compass Point Books (2003)
Lexile Measure 870; age range 9-11
This 48-page illustrated children's book provides a positive summary of John Smith's life and accomplishments. One short chapter of 3 pages, 'A Legend is Born?' is devoted to the Pocahontas rescue story, but the book is squarely focused on John Smith, so Pocahontas is only of background importance. Unsurprisingly, the book is pretty favorable toward John Smith, though we learn that he had enemies among the settlers and was prone to bragging and exaggeration. His early exploits fighting the Turks, his firm hand in governing Jamestown, and his later efforts to form a settlement in New England are all covered.
Pocahontas - The Powhatan Culture and the Jamestown Colony
by Lisa Sita (from The Library of American Lives and Times series)
PowerPlus Books, New York (2005)
Age range: 10-13, Grade Level: 5-6
I like this book, which has sections devoted to both Powhatan culture and Jamestown colony life. The illustrations are large and in color. Interestingly, the Booton Hall portrait on the cover has been modified to make Pocahontas appear less European (i.e., darker hair and skin than in the actual portrait). I guess we could debate whether that results in greater or more diminished accuracy. The book provides a nice overview of many aspects of the Jamestown story, including events prior, such as the Don Luis story and the Lost Colony of Roanoke story. There is an excellent summary of all sides of the "Did Pocahontas rescue John Smith?" debate. Sita's treatment of Pocahontas's final meeting with John Smith is also good The book generally tries for a middle ground, not overly favoring the English. I recommend this book, but my nitpicks are listed below.
Pocahontas and the Powhatans ('What You Didn't Know About History' series)
by Reese Donaghey (2015)
Gareth Stevens Publishing
Age range: 8-12 years; Grade level: 3-4
This is a thin and light, square paperback of 24 pages in a series that introduces significant historical events and people.. It relies as much on illustrations as on text (roughly half and half), so I imagine it's meant for 'reluctant' readers. The photos of Powhatan yehakins (lodges) are good, but many of the images are the same archival pictures of Pocahontas that have appeared in Pocahontas books for many decades. Some of the images from paintings, including the cover, have a strange, blurry quality, but it appears that was a stylistic choice by the artist. The Powhatan clothing portrayed in the illustrations is rather hit or miss, as the publisher pulled images from various sources.
The Life and Times of Pocahontas and the First Colonies
By Marissa Kirkman (2017)
Capstone Press - First Facts
Lexile measure 560L; age range: 7-9 years; grade level: 1-3
This 24 page book, like the one directly above, is another square, slim volume of mostly illustrations. These books for reluctant readers seem to be popular in recent years. I rather like this one, though there is a single sentence that bothers me. When describing the arrival of the first colonists, Kirkman writes, "They [the colonists] did not know that the Powhatans already lived on this land." (p. 8). Kirkman may have used that as shorthand for the rationale the settlers had for choosing the Jamestown peninsula, which was that it seemed to be wasteland. The settlers certainly knew there were natives who would challenge their right to be there. That aside, the illustrations are varied and good, most of them appearing in other Pocahontas related media. With the exception of that one sentence above, I approve of all that's written here and would recommend this book as a cheap and brief introduction to Pocahontas and the Jamestown colony. Pocahontas appears on about 5 of the 24 pages. Interestingly, the John Smith rescue story is barely mentioned, with no illustration on the topic. Kirkman says only, "Some stories say that Pocahontas saved John Smith:s life. Many historians say this did not happen." I think this is a good approach, though parents and teachers may be surprised to find the legend dismissed in this way.
Life of the Powhatan
By Rebecca Sjonger and Bobbie Kalman (2005)
Crabtree Publishing Company
Lexile measure: NC970L, age range: 8-12 years; grade level; 4-7
This is the reference book young readers need if they are looking to learn more about the Powhatan Indians. The high quality illustrations are large and in color. The book covers all cultural and historical aspects of the Powhatans, much like the Rountree and Egloff books further up this list, but in a more visually engaging way. To be clear, it's a slim volume,(32 pages) and not quite as in depth as the aforementioned books, but in my view, this is about all a young reader needs, and at an affordable price ($8.95). Note that only two pages are devoted to Pocahontas. I have some doubts about the women's clothing style pictured on p. 20, but I understand that most publishers for children are unable to picture Powhatan women as they really looked. Anyway, this one is recommended for young readers.
Edit: One problem with including URLs for additional information is that they tend to become outdated or are no longer there to provide the "fascinating" information promised. One of the 32 pages in this book is devoted to links, all of which are dead links.
Exploring the Virginia Colony
By Christin Ditchfield (2017)
Capstone Press - Smithsonian
Lexile measure 930L, age range 9-12 years, grade level 3-6
More pages (48) and more illustrations than the 3 slim volumes directly above, this book is a good deal at $7.95 retail price. It aims to cover more than just the Jamestown story, though that is included in roughly 1/3 of the book. A range of topics, including colonization, Roanoke, Powhatan Indians, slavery, colonial life, religious life, revolution and statehood are all introduced. Pocahontas only appears on one page. I'm not fond of the order of units, starting with the 13 colonies, then Powhatan Indians, then Roanoke, but a publisher has to make decisions like this to make a book different from the hundreds of others, and obviously a teacher could choose to handle the topics in a different order. I just imagined a young independent reader not being able to follow the chronology. I have no such issues with the second half of the book. The illustrations present some startling contrasts. The ones featuring English colonists, including the cover, show them happily farming in silk finery. The unit on slavery, on the other hand, shows the brutal treatment of both Africans and Indian slaves. This may be the first (and only?) book for children I've seen that addresses the topic of Indian slavery (in one image and a small text bubble). This book tries to tackle both praiseworthy and negative aspects of Virginia history, so I expect teachers and parents may have a variety of opinions about it. I would consider this slim book on early Virginia history to be among the recommended ones, though the language will be difficult for young readers.
By Erin Edison (2013)
Capstone Press - Pebble series; Great Women in History
Lexile measure 720L, age range 4-8, grade level Preschool-2
This is a strange little book. It's only 7 inches X 6 inches (17.5 cm X 15 cm), 24 pages of illustrations and very large type for young kids. The illustrations of Pocahontas feature a kind of cleaned up version of the Van de Passe engraving, plus three monochrome images of the 1905 Richard Norris painting based on the Van de Passe image (see book cover at left). The William Ordway Partridge statue makes an appearance (from the waist up), plus one other section of a painting showing Pocahontas meeting King James in England. So in a children's book about Pocahontas, the only image showing her in quasi-Indian garb is the William Ordway Partridge statue.. Now, considering how poorly Indian clothing appears in other publications, this may be an understandable choice and helps to avoid misrepresentation of Powhatan culture..(Of course, the statue clothing is wrong, too.) However, I wonder if the impression being given to little kids here isn't that Pocahontas basically looked and dressed like a rich English woman? The information provided in this small book is generally factual and minimalist. We know so little about Pocahontas, and this book doesn't try to expand on what we know, even to the point that the legendary rescue is not mentioned at all. The author, Erin Edison, appears to think that John Smith actually drew the picture of Powhatan in his longhouse that appeared in the Map of Virginia. I can't prove that he didn't, but I don't believe the image is attributed to Smith himself. I suppose that's a minor point, but it could have been easily avoided with different wording. The overall impression of this book is that it's OK, and only for little kids.
The Powhatan: The Past and Present of Virginia's First Tribes
By Danielle Smith-Llera (2017)
Capstone Press - American Indian Life series
Lexile measure 870L; Ages 9-12
Danielle Smith-Llera has written a series of books on American Indian life, and this is her offering on the Powhatans. It's a slim, inexpensive, square paperbook similar in production quality to the other books like it mentioned recently on this list. Aimed at middle schoolers, it seems to have more text than some of the books above. It aims to focus on the Powhatan Indians without emphasizing Pocahontas, who is only mentioned in passing. There are sections in this book on old Powhatan village life, with John White illustrations, followed by some history of the Powhatan and English conflict, and it ends with sections on the Powhatans today, with a couple pages on shad fishing and river management. I see this book as being mainly of interest to middle schoolers doing school research on the Powhatan Indians or kids who have an interest in differences among Native Americans (if they have access to the whole series). It's one of the more recent books on the topic of the Powhatans (2017).
Pocahontas / Chief Powhatan /Captain John Smith / John Rolfe - 1000 Readers series
By Carole Marsh (2002)
ISBN-9780635015068 / ISBN-9780635014986 / ISBN-9780635015594 / ISBN-9780635015051
On the principle that an expensive book is not automatically good, then a $2.95 book is not automatically bad. However, in this case, they're kind of bad. If you spring for any of these books, you are getting what you paid for, possibly less. These are thin, staple-bound, 12 page pamphlets with dubious cover art, and outdated, partially inaccurate information. I see them mainly as potential impulse purchases at a museum bookstore counter by a grandparent or a distant relative who wants to buy something as a gift but doesn't want to spend much. If someone's family relationship has been enhanced by the purchase of any of these books, then I guess they deserve to exist. I just don't see why anyone would choose to order them, as there are many better options, though few at the price of $2.95. (And OMG, don't buy from AbeBooks, where these go for over $10.00 each!)
Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend
By Heather E. Schwartz (2016, 2017)
Teacher Created Materials Publishing
Grades 4-5; Guided Reader Level M; Lexile 590L
I'm thinking the title of this book could not have pleased Rasmussen and Tilton, who published a book with the same title in 1994. This recent book had the potential to be great, but unfortunately, it caved to the demands of being 'inclusive' and featured unsubstantiated information by the hoaxers Custalow and Daniel (though it didn't actually name them). That said, there are many positive things about this book, and I could almost recommend it. After all, not everyone is as concerned about accuracy as myself. Still, I wonder how a book with three historical consultants and three editors could allow these unsubstantiated and inaccurate details to slip by.
By Joanne Mattern (2015)
Children's Press, Scholastic Inc.
Ages 3-6; Lexile 550L
Books for children make me way more irritated than I have a right to be. I understand that materials aimed at the public school market for little kids are going to put the most positive spin on the founding of the first English colony, and Pocahontas is going to be a hero and a symbol of peace. But when authors have "content consultants" and the benefit of dozens of previous books to build on, you'd hope they could strike the right tone. And to be honest, a lot of what's in here is not that bad, or at least no worse than most books aimed at this age range. So why am I so irritated, other than the logical explanation that I am an old curmudgeon?
By C. S. Woolley (2017)
I imagine that if you're a small publisher, it must be tough to compete against the major companies like Cambridge, Oxford, Scholastic and others. This company, Foxton Books, has chosen as its marketing strategy to focus on surface level features and skimp on editing and content. The cover/paper quality is good, the pictures are in color, and there is information about graded reading levels. On the other hand, that's all I can say that's positive about this book. The author is unqualified and badly in need of an editor, who is unfortunately nowhere to be found. Clearly, this is one of the worst books to come out on Pocahontas, and it shouldn't be on any school bookshelves. That it came out as recently as 2017 is particularly disappointing..
By Joseph Bruchac (2003)
Grades 7(?)-12; Lexile 970L
This historical fiction novel tells the story of Pocahontas and John Smith in alternating chapters. It's one of the best available, but be aware that is barely a children's book and more like a book for adults and high school students. I posted this one on my 'Books for Adults' page too. I am skeptical that junior high school readers can handle it, despite what the grade level information says. Please check it out, though, as the book deserves a wide readership. Both Pocahontas and John Smith serve as fictionalized first person narrators, so the book, by an Abenaki Indian author, presents a nicely balanced and convincing account of the first year of Jamestown colonization. Thanks to Sean, a visitor to this site, for suggesting this book.
Trading Thomas (Book One)
By Ora Smith (2023)
Lighten Press, LLC
This is a recent (2023) and recommended historical novel written for young readers from the point of view of Thomas Savage, an actual English boy who lived with the Powhatan Indians in the early years of the Jamestown colony. At that time, boys were sometimes traded between the colonists and the Indians to grow up in the other’s culture and later serve as interpreters (and sometimes spies), Thomas Savage, regardless of his own wishes, was forced to do this, the upside for him being that he had access to more food than the English colonists, who were dying of starvation and illness. In this fictional book, he also benefited from his friendship with Pocahontas. The actual Thomas managed to be a long-term survivor of the Powhatan wars, and he died in the colonies at the likely age of about 38.