PETIT JEAN: A WILDERNESS ADVENTURE
Kirkus Reviews ● Posted 7/15/2016 12:00 am
A young Frenchwoman masquerades as a boy in order to accompany her fiance to the New World in 1732.
In this retelling of an Arkansas legend, a young Parisian chevalier named André is given a land grant by Louis XV. Unwilling to be separated from him, André’s fiancee, Marguerite, disguises herself as a cabin boy. She secretly wears a golden medallion inscribed with the word Courage, a gift from King Louis. André sails to New Orleans unaware that Marguerite is aboard, though others recognize her. Marguerite becomes known as “Petit Jean” because of her small stature. Nearly a year elapses before André realizes that Marguerite has been by his side for the whole expedition. The original tale has been expanded by Jones to flesh out the historical account with details about the slave trade, the local Quapaw and Osage tribes, and the motivations of the French colonists as the explorers travel along the coasts of Cuba, Belize, and Louisiana. Very short chapters and simple prose help retain the legend’s folk characteristics. Light illustrations in pen and ink are supplemented by a period map that bookends the story, putting it into context. This novella could well serve as a starting point for inquiry into the colonial period.
The intense regional focus means the book will appeal mainly to visitors to the area and teachers of Arkansas history. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 7-11)