Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki

"We saw a black bird with red and yellow stripes on its wing. It sang sweetly, clinging to the side of a reed. Jessie and I listened and maybe forgot our task. But just for a little while. For it is strange here. It is not home like England. But it is a sweet and beautiful land."
Elizabeth Barker[2]

Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth's Diary is the first book in the My America series to feature Elizabeth Barker as the lead character. It was published in June 2000 and republished in May 2002 with a different cover design. The book was written by Patricia Hermes and was followed by Elizabeth's second diary, The Starving Time.

Elizabeth Barker journeys across the Atlantic Ocean with her family to settle in Jamestown, Virginia.


"For Jessica Camille Hermes"

Book description[]

"September 20, 1609
Papa works furiously on our house. Jessie and I work alongside him. Mama still frowns, though, when I climb to the roof. And in the lean-to beside us, John Bridger lounges with his lazy brothers. They will be sorry when winter comes! But we will have our home ready. And we will be ready for our new baby. Mama's time will be soon, I know.
I pray to God to watch over her when that time comes.
In 1609, Elizabeth Barker's family sails from Plymouth, England, to Jamestown, Virginia, establishing America's first permanent English colony. She and her family face many hardships—scarce food, illness, even death—but they are determined to make a home in their new land.

"Jamestown, Virginia, 1609
Elizabeth's story begins...

In Book One of Elizabeth's diary, she and her parents sail across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in the New World. Among the earliest settlers of the Jamestown Colony, Lizzie faces many hardships as she strives to make her home in this new land.


Nine-year-old, Elizabeth Barker arrives at Jamestown, Virginia, after seventy-one days of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Elizabeth is accompanied by her mother and father, as well as her best friend, Jessie Bolton. She writes daily in a diary that she plans to present to her twin brother, Caleb, who will arrive in the spring. Soon, Mr. Barker begins building a house, while Jessie's father builds their own next door.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth learns about the nearby Indian tribes and meets Pocahontas, the daughter of a chief. In September, Captain John Smith invites Elizabeth to visit the Indians in an attempt to make peace. Jessie is unable to go, because she must stay behind to watch over her ailing mother. Mistress Bolton passes away shortly later and Jessie stays quiet for several days.

The settlement's food supply dwindles, creating an air of desperation within the community. Captain John Martin decides to take one hundred men to trade for food with the Nansemond tribe. After a few days, Captain Smith becomes worried and goes to look for the men. Several of the men, including Captain Smith and Jessie's father, return with severe injuries. Captain Smith makes arrangements to return back to England, while George Percy and Gabriel Archer take control of Jamestown.

In the meantime, Elizabeth's mother gives birth to her third child, a daughter named Abigail, after a two day labor. The following day, Jessie's father announces that he will also return to England, breaking Elizabeth's and Jessie's hearts. Upon saying goodbye, Elizabeth asks Mr. Bolton to take her diary to Caleb. He agrees and Elizabeth hurries to scribble out the last entry.

Historical Note[]

The historical note discusses the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. In 1607, London Company sent an expedition to settle in the Americas. Jamestown became the first permanent settlement in the New World. The settlers faced many problems, including the land being poor for settling, the local natives, and not having enough supplies. After John Smith took over, life in Jamestown became easier until a second wave of colonists arrived in 1609. Smith returned to England after getting injured. The settlers experienced overcrowding, hunger, and disease. Jamestown began to thrive again when new supplies arrived. Seven illustrations are included throughout the section.


Main article: List of characters in Elizabeth's Diaries


Main article: Patricia Hermes

Patricia Hermes was an American author who wrote nearly fifty books for children and young adults. Hermes is the author of six books in the My America series, including the sequels of Our Strange New Land, The Starving Time and Season of Promise. She once lived in the Tidewater region of Virginia near Jamestown and was familiar with the area's weather. She also related to Elizabeth feelings about being "in a strange place with strange people and new foods, and different customs."

Shared continuity[]

Our Strange New Land is the first book in a trilogy featuring the character Elizabeth. It was followed by The Starving Time in 2001. The Starving Time is set immediately after the first book. The trilogy is concluded in Season of Promise (2002).



  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People (2001)[4]


  • The cover portrait of Elizabeth was illustrated by Glenn Harrington.[5]


See also[]

External links[]