Independence Day means picnics, swimming, parades, and fireworks, but it is also a time to take a closer look at our nation’s past. George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas Allen is an out-of-the-ordinary look at our first president. It begins tracing Washington’s steps with his first assignment at age 20 to gain intelligence about French troops just before the beginning of the French and Indian War. Allen includes real excerpts from journals and play-by-play actions of spies (male and female, Patriots and Loyalists) during the Revolutionary War. Kids will be fascinated by the top secret codes used to send messages and the underground spy networks that led American to its independence.
For a broader picture of the Revolutionary War, try Janis Herbert’s The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. Chalk-full of information, it also helps bring the past alive with instructions for “Colonial Children’s Games,” recipes from the time period, “Benedict Arnold’s Secret Code,” and other fun tie-ins.
Dennis Fradin put together 56 short biographies in his book The Signers – one for each man who signed the Declaration of Independence. Fradin has a wonderful sense for what will pique the interest of young readers, and each bio has just enough information to provide something distinct and memorable about each person. Do you know why Samuel Chase was nicknamed “Bacon Face”? Which signer was born a Quaker, but went on to help create the U.S. Navy? Team this book up with Rod Gragg’s “museum in a book” version of The Declaration of Independence for a thorough history lesson in tune with our July fourth celebrations.
reviewed by Jennifer