This historical fiction in the "Crimson Cross" series by Peter Marshall, David Manuel and Sheldon Maxwell is published by B&H Publishing and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Mercy Clifton, a traveler on the Mayflower, is the first European to set foot in what will be Plymouth, Mass. During her travels and her first year in the New World, she loses her parents, wrestles with whether she should stay or return to England, and tries to keep her thoughts and decisions in line with God's Word. Along the way, she is attracted to a boy named Jack. Although he likes Mercy and eventually asks her to marry him, Jack focuses on getting rich and being a man of means, not of God. Through facing hardship, meeting Squanto and other American Indians, and cooking a feast of thanksgiving, Mercy chooses to align herself with God's design, not Jack's, and trust in His provision.
Mercy and other Pilgrims pray, seek God's will and praise Him for His goodness. When one Pilgrim is tossed overboard by a wave (he was in a place he shouldn't have been) and is rescued, the Pilgrim leaders praise God for saving him and nurse him back to health. They try to show God's love to others no matter how difficult the situation. Over time, the captain of their ship and those on it who are not Pilgrims come to respect this group, called the Saints, because of their love for each other and service to those who are not in their group.
The Brewsters, Bradfords and Carvers are leaders of this small group of Pilgrims, and they take seriously their leadership roles, trying to do what is right before God in all things — showing His mercy and His discipline. Mercy listens to her parents' guidance and subsequently gives the Brewsters the same respect after her parents' death. Jack's father, Mr. Billington, is a poor role model for Jack. He looks out only for himself, complains nonstop, beats his wife and continually embarrasses himself and his family.
Other Belief Systems
Two groups are on the Mayflower: Saints and Strangers. The Saints are those who seek religious freedom in the New World and try to follow God's will for their lives. The Strangers are all others. Some of the Strangers seek fortune. Others seek fame or power. Many eventually become Christians. Some sailors on the Mayflower are superstitious. Native Americans believe in a Great Spirit deity. The Great Spirit is mentioned but the belief system is not explored. At one point, Squanto tells how he felt the eagle took his prayers to the Great Spirit.
Mr. Billington beats his wife, but the reader only learns about the bruises and her fear that he might be reported. Jack's younger brother plays with gunpowder and almost blows up the Mayflower. About half of the travelers die of illness or because of accidents on the voyage or during the first year as colonists. Mr. Billington points his musket at American Indians, but his son keeps him from shooting them. A group of Pilgrims attack a group of American Indians, but this battle is fought through trickery, and no one is killed. At one point, Jack threatens to hurt Mercy and leave her in the swamp. When a wolf almost attacks Mercy, her American Indian friend kills it with a knife, but not before Mercy's dog is almost killed by the wolf. Jack tells a story about dodging arrows as he was running for his life, but all of Jack's stories are exaggerated. Diseases and maladies are described, such as when one man's foot is frostbitten and two of his toes turn black.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Many bad things happen to Mercy. What do you feel was the worst?
- What would you have done in her place?
- Why did Mercy like Jack in the beginning?
- Why didn't Mercy like Jack by the end of the book?
- What convinces Mercy to make the New World her home?
- Jack is a complex character. Sometimes he is gallant — when he saves Mercy and her dog from a wave — and other times he is mean — when he threatens to leave Mercy in the swamp.
From all the things that Jack does, good and bad, which of his actions best characterize him?
- Mercy believes that God directs her life, and she wants to serve Him. Jack does not.
What directs Jack's life?
- Who does Jack serve?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.