March 2, 2015

Top Secret Files: The American Revolution by Stephanie Bearce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:59 am by suebe2

Top Secret Files:
The American Revolution
by Stephanie Bearce
Prufrock Press

I’m a history buff so I read a lot on various periods, both fiction and nonfiction.  When an author comes up with things I don’t know about well known figures, it surprises me.  Bearce has done it again.

As with the other books in the series, this one is all abou spies, secret missions and facts long hidden.  I was a little surprised when she started with George Washington.  Seriously?  Washington?  I may know a lot about ol’ George, but I didn’t know he had worked as a spy for the British.

In addition to giving readers little known information on big names like Washington, Bearce also sets the record straight about a few people that readers may have heard of but actually know very little about.  Everyone knows Benedict Arnold traitor, but Bearce fills in the details about how he first fought for the US and then later turned spy.  The one that really pulled me in was Paul Revere.  Bearce not only fills readers in on the details of the big ride but she also tells a bit more about Revere’s day job as a silver smith.  It wasn’t just fancy dishes.  Revere also did dental work and had worked as on early forensics investigator.

In addition to well-known figures, Bearce pulls in hereos I had never heard of including Nancy Morgan Hart from Georgia who not only spied but fought hand to hand.  Then there was Peter Francisco, a giant of a man who carried a canon on his shouldiers to keep the British from capturing it.

As always, Bearce’s books are peppered with hands on activities from sharp shooting (safe to do indoors) and writing invisible messages.

The information is quirky and fascinating which will help turn young readers on to history. Written in brief chapters, this book is suitable for reluctant readers who will be able to read for a while and then take a break.

Unlike some series, each of these books stands on its own.  You can start with the American Revolution since it came first.  Or read about World War II if that is a favorite time period.  Wherever you start, you are going to want to pick up the other books in the series to see what other authors haven’t been telling you!


February 9, 2015

Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary Story of the American Revolution by Don Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:00 am by suebe2

Henry and the Cannons:
An Extraordinary Story of the American Revolution
written and illustrated by Don Brown
Roaring Brook Press

You may not have heard of Henry Knox but it turns out that he was a pivotal figure in the Revolutionary War.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.

The British Army held Boston.  They knew that Washington and his modest army had little chance of taking the city from them.

Cannons would make all of the difference.  Colonel Benedict Arnold had taken Ft. Ticonderoga in New York for the Americans.  There were plenty of cannons there but it was also 300 miles away.  Getting the cannons from there to Boston would be impossible.

Fortunately, no one was able to convince Henry Knox of this.  You’re going to have to read the book to discover how he did it but is it well worth the read.  Let’s just say that it involved ships, oxen, horses and quite a bit of sweat in spite of the freezing temperatures.

If you have a young history buff who is all about George Washington, pick this book up.  If you have a young reader who loves a tense story with a struggle to victory, this is a great book.  And the best thing is that the story is 100% true.  How cool is that?

Don Brown’s water-color paintings are soft and muted but pen and ink add the level of detail necessary to show just how great  was this struggle through snow and mud and ice.

This book is an excellent choice for together reading with an early grade school child.  It would also be a great introduction for learning about Washington and the struggles of the Revolutionary War.  This book seller turned self-taught soldier may have been an unlikely hero but he was up for the job when Washington needed him and is sure to inspire readers today.


September 30, 2011

The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon by Carla Killough McClafferty

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:10 pm by suebe2

The Many Faces of George Washington:
Remaking a Presidential Icon
by Carla Killough McClafferty
Carolrhoda Books
AR 8.2

George Washington.

Say the name and an image pops into most people’s heads.  But is it an accurate image?

Look at portraits of Washington and you’ll find a range of looks.  Don’t believe me?  Then do a quick Google Image search.  You’ll have to disregard the photos of George Washington Carver and the obvious caricatures of the former President, but doesn’t the variety make you wonder?  What did he really look like?

Officials at Mount Vernon set out to find the answer when they took a survey and discovered what words the American public thought best described Washington.  Their answers?  Stiff.  Old.  Grumpy.  Boring.

These answers shocked the officials because, at 6’2″,  Washington was a serious outdoors man with a great deal of natural strength and vitality.

To make sure that visitors to Mount Vernon got the real picture, they decided to create three life-sized recreations of the President:  one when he was a 19 year-old surveyor, one as 45 year-old General Washington, and one as the 57 year-old President.

The quest to create these likenesses takes readers through the world of art, history and forensic science as experts with a wealth of talent come together to make the impossible possible — bringing Washington back to Mount Vernon.

McClafferty brings the mystery to life for readers, pulling in material from interviews, portraits created when Washington was alive, a mask cast from his face, and more.  Her text moves quickly and is sure to hold the interest of fans of the History Detectives and similar programs.

Hats off to McClafferty for a job well done and also to the folks at Mount Vernon who have worked so hard to correct our incorrect assumptions about the man who was our first President.


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