The mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke becomes an engaging backdrop for a preteen experiencing her own losses.
Nell Dare has her summer all planned: she’ll take tennis lessons with her BFF and stay with her writer father in their New York City apartment while her botanist mother works on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When her ever quarreling parents separate suddenly and her father leaves without a goodbye, the white girl must give up her dreams and help her mother study the “Mother Vine,” the oldest cultivated grapevine in America, perhaps even known to the first English colonists. In her quiet yet evenly paced narration, the preteen meets two new friends, both also white. She’s drawn to Ambrose, a Colonial re-enactor from England whose own father left and hasn’t returned, and bristles against Lila, a know-it-all local-history buff who searches for ghost activity related to the Lost Colony. Hoping to best Lila, Nell teams up with Ambrose to discover Lost Colony clues and entice her father to return and write about them. Interspersed throughout are diary entries from a member of the Lost Colony. Mounting evidence offers possible connections to the Lost Colony’s fate and Ambrose’s otherworldly relation to the colonists. Readers will have fun realizing the author of the diary entries long before Nell.
This blend of history with mystery and fantasy with realism is a good find indeed. (author’s note, historical notes) (Fiction. 8-12)