Source
Scholastic Kids Press Corps
The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.

The Puzzle of Pocahontas

How this author discovers the truth behind his subjects

By Maya Kandell | November 11 , 2009
Author George Sullivan and the cover of his book, <i>Pocahontas</i>, one of the In Their Own Words series of non-fiction books by Scholastic. (Photos courtesy Scholastic)
Author George Sullivan and the cover of his book, Pocahontas, one of the In Their Own Words series of non-fiction books by Scholastic. (Photos courtesy Scholastic)

Writing non-fiction is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, says author George Sullivan.

Before he could write his non-fiction book about the Native American princess Pocahontas, Sullivan had to do a lot of research. Much of that research came from his visits to historic Jamestown site and museum in Jamestown, Virginia. But he started out by dividing up the project—the first step in puzzle solving.

"I didn't start by trying to recreate the life of Pocahontas," Sullivan said in an interview with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. He began, instead, with one of the original settlers in Jamestown, John Smith, the man Pocahontas befriends and saves. He then researched the history of Jamestown and the early events there.

"I wanted to know, what was life like there?" he said. Only then, did he begin to research Pocahontas' tribe. "Where did they live, how did they live? You take different paths to complete the manuscript," he said.

Sullivan spent several months reading everything he could find about John Smith, including the settler's original writings, before going to Jamestown. Then he moved into the writing process, spending some of his time writing chapters or parts of chapters, taking notes, and doing interviews—principally with archaeologists.

He included the original old-world spellings of words in his book, writing them just as John Smith wrote them.

"I wanted to do that because it gives an authentic feeling to what I'm writing," he said. "It gives the reader greater insight into how the people [of that time] wrote and spoke."

Several of the organizations that Sullivan visited in Jamestown opened up their files to him, and showed him artifacts that told about the history of the area. Sullivan was able to take photos in Jamestown that would later be used in his book.

While Sullivan was at the historic Jamestown site, archaeologists took him to a newly completed project. They had found the remnants of the original fort, which many believed was under the waters of the James River. They found the fort's remains on the western bank.

"In their excavations, the archeologists had unearthed a great deal of material that told about life in those times," Sullivan said. Those findings became important parts of his research.

The author of several books in the Scholastic series In Their Own Words, Sullivan said he has always preferred writing non-fiction, because he is motivated by his curiosity.

"I like nonfiction because I'm a very curious person, and the research that I do I find introduces me to new worlds," he said. "I'm always interested in finding out what people were really like—how they live, what the family life was like, what motivated them."

Research and the process of writing also bring an author a better understanding of different people and the world they live in. When writing Pocahontas, he discovered the world of Native Americans, both past and present.

"I was impressed with what Native Americans do to preserve their culture, their background, their history," he said. "I know when I was doing this book and visiting the various reservations, I came away with a greater understanding of Indians and their culture, and how they are living."

For more information, check out Kid Reporter Maya Kandell's blog post and book review!

For more book reviews and author interviews, log onto the Scholastic Kids Press Corps's Kids Read Special Report.


American Indian Heritage Month

For more Kid Reporter coverage of the annual celebration of America's native heritage, check out the American Indian Heritage Month Special Report.

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

About the Author

Maya Kandell is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Using Benchmark Papers to Teach Writing With the Traits: Middle School

    Using Benchmark Papers to Teach Writing With the Traits: Middle School

    by Ruth Culham


    View Sample Pages



    Trait expert Ruth Culham has created a diverse set of papers, assessed and annotated them, and designed a set of interactive whiteboard exemplars so teachers and students can use them as the focus of trait-based writing instruction. The papers are highlighted by key quality for each trait, making it easy for writers to see what works and what doesn't by simply pressing the color-coded buttons at the bottom of each projected paper on the white board. Can be used with overhead projectors as well! 96 pages CD.

    Click here to learn more about Scholastic Professional


    You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader® software, version 4.0 or higher, to view and print the sample page above. Get Adobe Reader® for FREE.

    $16.49 You save: 25%
    Professional Book | Grades 6-8
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Using Benchmark Papers to Teach Writing With the Traits: Middle School
    Grades 6-8 $16.49
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    The Complete Year in Reading and Writing: Grade 1

    The Complete Year in Reading and Writing: Grade 1

    by Pam Allyn Jaime Margolies


    View Sample Pages



    Provides a detailed curricular calendar that's tied to a developmental continuum and the standards so you'll know not only what you should be teaching, but what your students are ready to embrace and what you can reasonably expect of them as successful readers and writers. Additionally, you'll find monthly units of study that integrate reading and writing so both work together to provide maximum support for your students. The units are organized around four essential components, process, genre, strategy, and conventions, so you're reassured you're addressing everything your students need to know about reading and writing. What's more you'll find ready-to-use lessons that offer exemplary teaching and continuous assessment, and a flexible framework that shows you how to frame a year of teaching, a unit, and a lesson—and you can easily adapt all to fit the unique needs and interests of your own students. 240 pages DVD (17 minutes) & fold-out color year-long planner .

    Click here to learn more about Scholastic Professional


    You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader® software, version 4.0 or higher, to view and print the sample page above. Get Adobe Reader® for FREE.

    $19.49 You save: 25%
    Professional Book | Grade 1
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    The Complete Year in Reading and Writing: Grade 1
    Grade 1 $19.49
    Add To Cart
Privacy Policy
EMAIL THIS

* YOUR FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S EMAIL ADDRESS

MESSAGE
Here's something interesting from Scholastic.com