Season of Promise: Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary Discussion Guide
Lead a class discussion on this new installment from the My America series, where young Elizabeth and the other Jamestown settlers begin to work together.
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
Season of Promise is ten-year-old Elizabeth Barker’s third diary set in the Jamestown, Virginia colony. This time the year is 1610. Elizabeth’s first diary told the story of the family’s journey from England to Jamestown. Book two brought to life the devastating starving time faced by the colonists that first winter. Season of Promise takes on a more optimistic tone as Elizabeth and the other settlers begin to work together. They are no longer forced to eat dogs and worms to stay alive. Churches and houses dot the landscape as Jamestown becomes home.
Diary three shows the colonists grappling with the heavy-handed leadership of Lord Delaware. This would-be king dressed in a flowing red velvet coat and surrounded by guards brings much needed discipline to the colony. What he lacks is compassion. Punishments range from having both ears cut off if you steal to being killed if you miss three Sunday sermons without permission.
Through Elizabeth’s diary entries, author Patricia Hermes succeeds once again in putting a human face on the courageous adventurers and the lives they lived in America’s Jamestown Colony.
"There is much to tell! My heart does leap and dance inside my chest," writes ten-year-old Elizabeth as she begins her third diary. It is August of 1610, and there is much to be thankful for. Her twin brother, Caleb, has joined the family after a year's absence. Baby sister Abigail is "growing and thriving." Elizabeth has two best friends, Mary and Temperance, and there is finally plenty of food for all.
But, there are troubling things too. The new leader of Jamestown, Lord Delaware, is stern and cruel. He has made harsh rules. He's ordered that a man have his ears cut off for stealing one cup of meal. Lord Delaware has also said that girls may no longer work alongside men. "Instead, we must sew and cook and gather herbs." Elizabeth also misses her mama, who died during the starving time. She has a dislike for Mistress Whistler, a widow who cares for Abigail each day. She fears that Mistress Whistler will take her mother's place — that Elizabeth’s papa will decide to marry her.
One day, when Elizabeth bumps into Lord Delaware, knocking him off his feet, he summons her to his office. She worries, "I am afraid, am I to be put to death?" Instead Lord Delaware is polite to Elizabeth, praising her. He even listens to her opinions on his cruel treatment of the colonists, and, indeed, alters some of his rules.
Papa and Mistress Whistler do marry, and Elizabeth sees her as "a good enough mama." Papa is content. A new baby is coming. Elizabeth and Caleb dream about the future and feel sure that "somewhere in Heaven Mama still looks down at us. We think what she sees does make her happy."
Thinking About the Book
- Early in this diary, Elizabeth writes that of the five hundred Jamestown colonists only about sixty were still alive by the time Caleb’s ship arrived in the spring. What happened to cause so many to die?
- Explain why you think Elizabeth's diary is called Season of Promise?
- Why did many of the colonists believe Lord Delaware thought he was a king?
- Does Sarah Bartlett change in the diary? What reason do Mary and Elizabeth have for calling her Miss Tiskit?
- Why does Elizabeth "not care much" for Mistress Whistler? How does her opinion change? Why?
- Many of the girls and women in Jamestown could not read. How did Elizabeth learn to read? How does this ability help her?
- Why is Elizabeth fearful of meeting with Lord Delaware?
- Both Captain John Smith and Lord Delaware tell Elizabeth that she could help them govern and she would do so wisely. Why do you think Elizabeth would be a good leader?
- Elizabeth uses several words that may not be familiar to every member of your discussion group. Find a definition for each of the following. Compare your definitions with those found by others in your group.
- As Christmas gifts for her friends, Mary and Temperance, Elizabeth baked raisin cakes. Try making raisin cake. Do you think this might make a good present for someone?
- When Anna Whistler gave the handmade, blue wool dress to Elizabeth she included a letter to her. Pretend you're Elizabeth and write a thank you letter to Anna.
- Boys and girls were treated differently in the Jamestown colony of 1610. In each discussion group, list as many examples as you can to show the different treatment. Have each group share its list with the rest of the class.
- In her September 7th diary entry Elizabeth and her friends make a list of suggestions for Lord Delaware that would make life better in Jamestown. Suppose you were going to meet with the principal of your school or the mayor of your town. Draw up a list of five things you'd like that person to do to make life at your school or in your town better.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.