What Was The Boston Tea Party?

What Was The Boston Tea PartyWhat Was the Boston Tea Party? Written by Kathleen Krull. Illustrated by Lauren Mortimer. Cover illustration by James Bennett. Grosset & Dunlap, An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013. 128 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 8-12.  ISBN: 9780448462882.

I learned about the Boston Tea Party in elementary school many years ago. Now I only remember that a bunch of people in Boston got mad at the British and dumped a lot of tea in the Boston harbor.

In “What Was the Boston Tea Party?” one can almost hear the drumbeat of events starting at the end of the French and Indian War and leading to the Boston Tea Party. To begin with, the British, who had never levied direct taxes against the colonists, demanded the colonists pay for the French and Indian war and levied the Stamp Tax to collect payment. As soon as the Stamp Tax ended, due to universal protest among the colonists, the Townshend Acts passed. In order to keep the colonists in line, British troops were sent to Boston. However, this only enraged the colonists further.  British troops had previously only been used to protect the colonists, not police them. One event like this followed another. Kathleen Krull makes clear, by marching through each of these events, that the Boston Tea Party was inevitable. And the Boston Tea Party was, she says “one of the most powerful protests ever, rocking the world and in time leading to the birth of a whole new country.”

I thought the Boston Tea Party was a chaotic event. Not so! It was very well planned and well-orchestrated and it was quiet. It was also a nonviolent event and is thus significant to the nonviolent political movements that followed.

The book spends a bit of time after the Boston Tea Party explaining the events between the tea party, in 1773, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

In the middle of the book there are 16 pages of photographs and photos of paintings including portraits of leaders of the Revolutionary War and pictures that record well known events such as an engraving by Paul Revere of the Boston Massacre.

The illustrations are pen and ink with details that add to the story.

In the back of the book there is a timeline of the Boston Tea Party as well as a timeline of the world. There is a bibliography which includes both books and websites. Unfortunately, there is no index.

I am so glad to know the context of the Boston Tea Party. It enhances my appreciation of the generation of Americans that included our founding fathers.

 Nonfiction Monday

Sophia’s War

Sophias War Sophia’s War by Avi.  Beach Lane Books, 2012.  Publisher recommends for grades 3-7.  336 pages.  ISBN: 9781442414426.

I’d like to write historical fiction about specific events, such as Apollo 13, but I’ve never understood how to fictionalize these events. The closest I’ve gotten is Steve Sheinkin’s nonfiction with a strong narrative line. In this book, Avi follows the same narrative line that Sheinkin follows in The Notorious Benedict Arnold. However, Avi finds two places where the historical record is apparently not clear about why things happened as they did.  Avi inserts his character, Sophia, into both places in an entirely believable way.

Since I have just mentioned The Notorious Benedict Arnold let me say that it can be paired very nicely with Sophia’s War. There is some discrepancy between the two on the historical details, but the details are small and don’t keep the books from going well together.

Sophia and her parents live on the island of Manhattan which, as the story begins in 1776, is occupied by British forces.  Sophia and her parents are Patriots who never talk in public about being Patriots. Sophia’s brother has gone off to fight with the Patriots.  Sophia and her parents are forced to take British officers into their home. The first officer who lives with them is John Andre. The 12-year-old Sophia develops a crush on Andre. The 12-year-old Sophia also finds it necessary to enter two of the many prisons in New York. The conditions are horrific. In 1780 Sophia is 15 and begins a job which puts her in a perfect position to try to thwart the plan John Andre and Benedict Arnold have developed, a plan for Arnold to hand over West Point to the British.

Towards the end of the book, Sophia has grave misgivings about stopping John Andre when it becomes clear that stopping him will mean his death. I find this a bit unbelievable. Sophia cares so deeply about American independence that she has put herself through a physically grueling journey to ensure that the plot against the Patriots is stopped.  Would she really have misgivings because her actions might lead to Andre’s death?

The story is compelling, the second half even more so than the first half.

I suspect the details of the prisons in New York are too grim for third, fourth and fifth graders. Sophia’s War works beautifully in describing the conditions of the time, in creating a strong protagonist, and in telling the story of John Andre and Benedict Arnold.

Blog reviews I Like Big Books; Ms. Yingling Reads;  

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery

The Notorious Benedict ArnoldThe Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin.  Roaring Brook Press, 2010.  Publisher recommends for ages 11-14.  352 pages.  ISBN: 9781596434868.

Benedict Arnold was a traitor. I’ve known this since I was very young. I’m sure there are times when I’ve read other bits and pieces about Arnold, but for me Benedict Arnold has simply been a synonym for the word “traitor”.

Steve Sheinkin’s political/military thriller about Arnold fascinated me. Sheinkin shows Benedict Arnold as a heroic warrior and remarkable military strategist. It seems, though, that if his name were not synonymous with traitor it might be synonymous with the term “loose cannon.”  In the battle of Saratoga, for instance, he fought tirelessly to win the battle, as he knew it had to be won, regardless of the orders of his commanding officer.

Benedict Arnold might also be synonymous with the phrase “doesn’t play well with others.” Those whom he commanded were very loyal. Those on his level or above, with the exception of George Washington, viewed him with frustrated disdain. He was not a political creature; his feelings were hurt and his pride was offended far too easily. But he lived in a political world and the higher he rose in that world the more political he needed to be.

It’s an interesting comment on his strategic skills that, had a couple of things going right that went wrong, his plan against the Colonists might very well have won the war for the British.

John Andre, Arnold’s British contact also had an interesting life during the Revolutionary war.  Sheinkin includes chapters on Andre, a likable sounding officer with too much ambition.

The story moves very quickly. It contains more about the heroics of Arnold than it does about his treachery.

The work is also thoroughly researched. Clearly Sheinkin knows his subject well. However, I think he may step a little far in assuming that he knows Arnold’s motivations. At one point he writes “but therein lies the key to understanding Arnold: he didn’t feel guilty. He was always able to convince himself that what he was doing was right. And if any feelings of remorse popped up, instead of dwelling on them he blended them with anger and spewed them outward at his enemies.”

The last 25 percent of the book contains source notes, quotation notes and an index.

After reading the book, Arnold is no longer simply a synonym for “traitor” in my mind, he is a complex human being with great strengths and, unfortunately, great weaknesses.

Other Blog Reviews:

Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac; Reading Rants!Heavy Medal; Barbara Ann Watson;