Petit Jean:A Wilderness Adventure
About the Author

William B. Jones is a writer, attorney, and teacher. He is the author of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History; editor of Robert Louis Stevenson Reconsidered; co-editor of A Spectrum Reader; and contributor to The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies and Icons of the American Comic Book. He has written more than 100 introductions for the revived Classics Illustrated series.  He has two sons, Will and Stephen, and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his wife, costume designer Yslan Hicks.


Gary Zaboly


Gary Zaboly specializes in historical illustration and writing focusing on American frontier history. He has authored many articles as well as seven books, including A True Ranger: the Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers, An Altar for Their Sons: The Alamo and the Texas Revolution in Contemporary Newspaper Accounts (winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award), and The American Colonial Ranger: The Northern Colonies, 1724–1764. He is a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians and a founding board member of the Alamo Battlefield Association. He lives in New York City.

ISBN 978-0-9905971-4-8 $ 14.95

Arkansas Historical Association's Susannah deBlack Award
Arkansas Center for the Book's Book of the Year
Arkansas State Library Arkansas Gem

64 pages ● 7 x 10”
Interest Level: Grades 4-7 (ages 9-12)
Reading Level: Grades 5-6 (ages 10-11)
Lexile Level: 780L
ATOS Reading Level 6.2
ATOS Interest Level: MG+
BISAC Subjects: JUV016120; JUV016050; JUV001000

    Petit Jean Mountain, a dramatic promontory in the Arkansas River Valley, owes its name to a legend that has endured for centuries. Marguerite, a young Parisian lady disguised as a cabin boy, accompanies her fiancé on a voyage to the New World to redeem the land grant he has earned in service to the king. Hiding in plain sight as Petit Jean ("Little John"), she proves herself more than capable of the demands of the journey.

    Drawing on variants of the legend, William B. Jones sets his narrative in the French Colonial era during the reign of Louis XV.  Taking his reader on a journey across an ocean, through Louisiana Territory to a beloved Arkansas landmark, Jones spins a tale of mistaken identity, love, and adventure.

    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. --Kirkus Reviews

    Lesson Plan Available