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An Unsolved Mystery from History

by Jane Yolen & & illustrated by Roger Roth

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: July 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-82321-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A gimmicky “mystery from history” is presented with the true detective work leached out of it and replaced with a phony framework meant to simulate clue-tracking. A frame story presents a girl who turns her enjoyment of the detective work of history to the lost colony of Roanoke. The subsequent narrative tells the story of the colonists, accompanied by full-bleed illustrations overlaid with mock notepaper explaining details and faux sticky-notes that randomly define terms—“destination” and “vicinity,” for instance, but not the much more difficult “politics.” The true shame of this effort, however, is that there is no attempt to reveal what is really exciting about history: how we know about the few details we have. This narrative is followed by a listing of five hypotheses varying from plausible to mystical, inviting readers to form their own. If the reader does, however, it is not because the preceding work has given her any idea how to formulate such a speculation. As an account of the lost colony, this is adequate; as a true mystery from history, it misses the boat. (bibliography, Web sites) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)