John Smith Escapes Again!
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. (Oct.)
Release date: 10/01/2006