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Cover image for Roanoke : the lost colony : an unsolved mystery from history
Roanoke : the lost colony : an unsolved mystery from history
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ©2003.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
A young girl relates the known facts of the English colonists who settled on Roanoke Island and later disappeared, and challenges the reader to solve the mystery.


Call Number
J 975.6175 Yolen 2003
975.6 YOLEN

On Order



In 1587 John White was chosen by Sir Walter Raleigh to lead a new colony at Roanoke off the Atlantic coast. After bringing many men, women, and children to the new land, White went back to England to gather supplies for the long winter. But when he finally returned to the fort almost three years later, he found that all of the colonists had vanished. The only signs of life left were the letters CRO carved into a tree and the word CROATOAN carved into one of the fort's posts. Some people think that the Spanish army captured the colonists; some people think that the local native people murdered them; others think that the colonists went off to live with the native people and start a new life. Still others think that the colonists tried to sail home to England and were lost at sea. No one knows for sure.
Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the lost colony of Roanoke. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

Author Notes

Jane Yolen was born February 11, 1939 in New York City. She received a bachelor's degree from Smith College in 1960 and a master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1976. After college, she became an editor in New York City and wrote during her lunch break. She sold her first children's book, Pirates in Petticoats, at the age of 22. Since then, she has written over 300 books for children, young adults, and adults.

Her other works include the Emperor and the Kite, Owl Moon, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and The Devil's Arithmetic. She has won numerous awards including the Kerlan Award, the Regina Medal, the Keene State Children's Literature Award, the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-A young narrator who wants to be a detective when she grows up tells the story of the English colonists who went to Roanoke Island in 1587 and disappeared almost without a trace. A framed box of text, multicolored Post-its that define words, and a small notebook page that fleshes out information are laid over each double-page, pencil-and-watercolor painting. The balanced text is written in declarative, factual language that can be a bit abrupt at times and leaves little room for the poignancy and drama that is inherent in the story. A two-page concluding section offers a time line and five traditional theories of what might have happened, each followed by questions that help test the premise. The narrator prompts children to come to their own conclusions from the clues presented. The idea is an intriguing one but answers to some of the questions are available only through additional research or speculation. In addition, pieces of evidence that might be helpful, such as tree-ring evidence of a possible great drought at the time, are omitted. A detective trying to come up with reasonable theories would also benefit from a good map. Both text and full-color naturalistic illustrations are attentive to the Native American perspective, and Colonial attitudes toward native peoples are explained, as are the results of those attitudes. While appeal is limited, the book may prove useful despite its flaws.-Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The third volume in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, Roanoke: The Lost Colony by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple, illus. by Roger Roth, once again invites readers to use their detective skills to solve a puzzle from the past. In this intriguing entry, English colonists at Roanoke vanish sometime between 1587 and 1590, accompanied by atmospheric pencil and watercolor artwork. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

The enigmatic disappearance of English settlers from their compound at Roanoke Island is this book's unsolved mystery. The authors tell the complicated story of dangerous trans-Atlantic voyages, alternating friendships and betrayal of and by native tribes with some clarity, though definitions and other sidebars are sometimes distracting. Careful illustrations aid in interpretation. Timeline. From HORN BOOK Spring 2004, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

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) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-5. As in The Mary Celeste (1999) and The Wolf Girls (2001), this picture book for older children is framed by a fictional story about a detective's daughter who investigates a famous historical mystery. Here she tells readers about the founding of the Roanoke colony in 1587. It seems the colony's leader, who departed to obtain supplies, returned to find the colonists gone. The girl sets forth several theories and questions about what may have happened to the "lost colony," letting readers examine the facts and draw their own conclusions. There's a lot going on here: a framework story, the historical account, the ending hypotheses, and the addition of "notebook pages" with background information; children may need to read the book more than once to take it all in. The large, picture-book format offers plenty of scope for Roth's appealing narrative illustrations in watercolor and pencil. An attractive, intriguing introduction to the lost colony. --Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2003 Booklist