BOOK REVIEW: Children of the Wild by Giles Milton

WHAT was it like to be amongst the first settlers who headed off to the far shores of the New World in the late 16th century?
Children of the Wild by Giles MiltonChildren of the Wild by Giles Milton
Children of the Wild by Giles Milton

Inquisitive children get the chance to find out as Giles Milton, an author who specialises in the history of exploration, takes us on a thrilling voyage to Virginia where four enterprising youngsters find themselves in a desperate battle for survival.

But, unlike the intractable adults, these young colonists open their hearts and minds to the new world and its indigenous people, and soon realise that the natives of North America have many skills that their parents would do well to learn…

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Children of the Wild is the first volume in a new adventure trilogy for young readers aged eight and over which draws on actual historical events to create an authentic picture of how life turned out for the first settlers of the New World.

And in addition to the novel, Milton and his publisher, New World Books, are creating web resources including schemes of work aimed at learning curricula both sides of the Atlantic.

In spring 1585, sisters Eliza and Maud Daveys and their Dorset neighbours John and Francis Whittle are setting sail with their families for an adventure that will change their lives forever.

Aged between 9 and 13, they are part of an historic mission organised by Sir Walter Raleigh to colonise Virginia, the land of the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I. The families have been chosen as settlers because they are yeomen who know how to grow their own food and work the land.

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But after four weeks at sea, disaster strikes on landing when their ship is damaged on a reef sending their supplies and barrel loads of seeds for planting into the sea.

And another thing they hadn’t counted on was the appearance of the local native chieftain Wingina, resplendent in his deerskin mantle and feathered headdress. But he comes in peace and emboldened by their natural curiosity, the children befriend two native girls, Keetam and Oakee, and start learning the strange new language.

Before long, the children have become the only means by which the grown-ups can communicate with Chief Wingina and his tribe but when the colonists’ cruel and cynical leader Master Ralph launches an attack on the native Indians, Wingina has his brutal revenge.

He destroys the English settlement, captures all the adults and holds them prisoner. The children manage to escape and suddenly they have to learn how to survive in the wild. But when Eliza and John are kidnapped, their only hope of release is a series of dazzling compass tricks…

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Milton’s compelling and fast-paced story will enchant young readers with its fascinating New World historical backdrop and its exhilarating spirit of adventure and discovery.

And the door is left tantalisingly open for the next instalment of Virginian adventures…

(New World Books, paperback, £7.99)