"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."
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.
"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."
"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.
Hermes once lived in the Tidewater region of Virginia near Jamestown and was familiar with the area's weather. She related to Elizabeth feelings about being "in a strange place with strange people and new foods, and different customs."
The Starving Time is the sequel to Our Strange New Land as well as the second book featuring Elizabeth. It was also written by Patricia Hermes and was published in May 2001. The book continues Elizabeth's story as she and her family struggle to survive in Jamestown during Starving Time.