The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower

Here’s my new favorite Thanksgiving book: The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch (2015). It’s a picture book with big, detailed, dramatic illustrations. It’s a history book with lots of great info about the Pilgrims, their voyage, their landing, and their community in the new land. It’s a story about one passenger of the Mayflower: young John Howland, indentured servant to John Carver. And yes, he did fall overboard. It gives perspective to the varying attitudes of those on the Mayflower – those committed to making a new place to live in the new land, and those there only because their work brought them there – and how those attitudes can change (or strengthen) under dire circumstances. My children also enjoyed this book; I caught them studying it later on their own.

Here’s an excerpt from near the beginning of the voyage:

“You’re the boy that runs the messages, ain’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I am…. John Howland’s my name….”

“Never mind that! Just get below and tell your boss that Bob Coppin – that’s me, the first mate – orders that the passengers are to keep down ‘tween decks now we’re under way. We’ll let you know when you can come up for air. And keep it quiet with all that praying!” With that, he stomped off, laughing.

“I’ll be pleased to take your message, Master Coppin,” I called after him. “You will find, sir, that we are a civil people, and we hope to give no offense to God or man. We hope only for a measure of civility in return!”

The first mate stopped laughing. He turned around and looked long and hard at me. Then he gave me a nod and said, “Right you are… Master Howland.”

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