Without a Prayer! Two Bad Pilgrims by Kathryn Lasky
In 1620 a ship called the Mayflower left England bound for the New World in the west. On board were Pilgrims seeking a new life in a land where freedom.....
HEY! THIS IS BORING! HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT US---FRANCIS AND JOHNNY BILLINGTON--AND HOW MUCH FUN WE HAD ALMOST
BLOWING UP THE MAYFLOWER, LIVING WITH THE INDIANS, AND CAUSING LOTS OF TROUBLE IN THE NEW WORLD!
Literature is full of bad boys, from Tom and Huck on, but who knew that two naughty lads were among those staid, gray-clad Pilgrims?
Well, it seems that the Pilgrim Fathers filled out their passenger manifesto with several families of what the Pilgrims called "Strangers"--some of them adventurers, some scofflaws one step ahead of the constable--who boarded alongside the Winthrops and the Bradfords. Of especial note among these were the Billingtons, a family with two sons, Francis and John. Records show that their parents were no prizes, but Frankie and Johnny were decidedly something else!
In the hands of Newbery-winning author Kathryn Lasky, the waggish Frankie and Johnny tell their own story their way in her latest, Two Bad Pilgrims (Viking, 2009). The brothers' boast that they almost blew up the Mayflower is documented as no idle brag: bored with the seemingly endless games of "draughts" (checkers), "naughts and crosses," (tic-tac-toe), and "Lummelen," (keep-away) on the long voyage, it seems the two got their hands on some "squibs," gunpowder twisted inside a paper straw, used like matches to ignite cannons. Caught almost "red-handed" just in time, the Mayflower escaped, as one of the Pilgrim Fathers put it, "through God's mercy a great danger...." on the high seas, no thanks to Frankie and Johnny.
WE WEREN'T SO BAD. MAN, THERE'S BAD AND THEN THERE'S REALLY BAD. WE WERE JUST MIDDLING BAD. SO WE NEARLY BLEW UP THE STINKFLOWER. IT WASN'T LIKE WE MEANT TO!
Having nearly aborted a whole major chapter in American history doesn't seem to have inhibited the Billington boys. Put to communal tasks immediately when they set their feet on North American soil ("WE WERE ALLOWED TO PLAY FOR ABOUT THREE MINUTES BEFORE THEY PUT US TO WORK!") Frankie and Johnny managed to skip the labor detail most of the time, perfecting their tree-climbing skills to avoid detection. While they were goofing off in the treetops, however, they spotted some large bodies of water to the west, and one of these discoveries is known to this day as the Billington Sea. Avoiding close contact with their hard-working fellow colonists had another unexpected advantage: they and their parents waltzed through the "Great Sickness" with nary a sniffle, being, as their fellow colonists probably grumbled, too lazy to die.
Making himself scarce from schooling and labor did get Johnny taken hostage by the neighboring Nauset Indians, who didn't seem to be signatories to the treaty with Massasoit. The colonists had given the rascal up for a goner when word came of a wandering golden-haired lad living with the "natives" down around Cape Cod. Probably with understandable reluctance, the village elders negotiated for his return, in the process fortuitously establishing peaceful relations with the Nausets, who strangely seemed to have enjoyed Master Billington's sojourn with them.
Pious Pilgrim history to the contrary, our first settlers were always a mixed lot, with their share of ramblin' guys who sometimes serendipitously brought their improbable good luck along for the ride and added to the colorful mix that is our land to this day. With insouciant asides from the two lads breaking into the earnest efforts of "the Professor" to narrate the official account of Plimoth Plantation, Kathryn Lasky's hilarious tales of the Billington boys will delight young readers with their little-known exploits. John Manders' caricature-styled illustrations add to the fun--and the historical facts--of the book. For older kids, who think they know it all about the Pilgrim Fathers, this new Thanksgiving story will be both a revelation and a total romp!