cover image N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims

Chronicle Books, Robert D. San Souci. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-87701-806-3

Best known for his illustrations of such classics as Treasure Island and Robin Hood , N. C. Wyeth also had a successful career as a muralist. In the '40s he created a series of murals for New York's Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, presented here in all their restored glory. The paintings offer an idyllic, highly romanticized vision of Pilgrim life--the robust men and women and lush surroundings, for example, don't even hint at the severe deprivations suffered by the original colonists. This shortcoming is outweighed by the breathtaking scope and beauty of the illustrations and the glimpse they offer of an unspoiled country's bounty. San Souci's workmanlike text is well researched, accurate and packed with information. Unfortunately, it never rises above the prosaic, and ends up sounding like the soundtrack to a particularly didactic documentary. Geared primarily toward the classroom (the book is dedicated to the schoolteachers of America), this volume isn't without merit, but its lack of immediacy and sparkle will not do much to breathe life into the subject of history. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)