Book Review: Roanoke, the Lost Colony

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Jane Yolen Books Reviewed on This Site

My Brothers' Flying Machine
Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History
The Salem Witch Trials
Girl in a Cage

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Award-winning author Jane Yolen is back with another book in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, this time focusing on the Lost Colony of Roanoke, again with her daughter, former private investigator Heidi Stemple.

The story of Roanoke is a familiar one to many people, although the precise details of that story are known only to the more-than-casual observer of history. This book does a good job of handing to the reader just about everything he or she needs to make an intelligent decision as to what really happened to the poor, lost colonists on that tiny island all those years ago.

Like the other books in the series (including Wolf Girls), this mystery is presented as a series of facts and figures, in a fun and engaging format. Historical information is presented in a straightforward manner, complete with glossary entries. Other information is presented graphically to appear as if written on a spiral notebook (the detective's friend). The effect is letting the reader share in the detective's deductions as she maneuvers her way through a sifting through the various information in search of a credible solution. And yes, there is a main character here, a young girl, with whom her father engages in spirited discourse on the nature of history and its mysteries.

The detail in this book is simply amazing, much more than in most adult-oriented discussions of the subject. By the time the reader finishes, he or she will have a thorough understanding of the period and the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance. The detective even shares a short list of five theories of how and why the Roanoke colonists disappeared, with supporting facts to match, so that the reader can decide for himself or herself.

This is an excellent book and a worthy addition to the wonderful series that the Yolens have started. More than that, it stands alone as an excellent historical treatment of one of American history's most enduring puzzles.

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