I discovered this book several years ago, when I was looking for historical fiction to suppliment an American history class I was teaching to my then-homeschooled daughter. I’ve just finished reading it with both of my boys for the same class. I’m still impressed.
This is the story of Jamestown, told through the eyes of a young boy who was there. Little is known of Samuel Collier, but he really did serve as Captain John Smith’s servant. Ms. Carbone has developed him into a rich character, a London orphan assigned to the voyage as punishment after a run-in with the law. His fighting spirit serves him well in the harsh New World, though he must learn to temper his independence and cooperate with others if the struggling new colony is to survive.
Ms. Carbone illustrates in rich detail the arrogance and ineptitude of the wealthy gentlemen who signed with the Virginia Company, men so ill-suited to the realities of wilderness living. And she contrasts them well the “commoner” they refuse to heed, Captain John Smith, the only man among them with the experience and discipline necessary to ensure the settlement’s survival. This butting of heads provides the real life conflict that drives the story. And Captain Smith’s many close calls, both at the hands of the Indians and the hands of the gentlemen, will thoroughly captured readers’ attention. Meanwhile, they’ll be picking up so much information about the era’s social class struggles, the various motivations behind colonization, details of day-to-day life, and the power struggle between the ignorant representatives of the English king and the mighty Powhatan emperor.
Superbly narrated, artfully crafted, and historically accurate, Blood on the River is a top-notch resource for studying this time period in American history. Experiencing events through story is the next best thing to going back in time. Highly, highly recommended for ages 9+.