Hughes, Pat Raccio. Five 4ths of July.
From 1777 until 1781, the Revolutionary War changed Jake Mallery’s world beyond recognition. This book chronicles one day, July 4th, in those years. In the first year, Jake and his friends are enjoying the new holiday—eating oysters and diving in the sea. Jake fights with Hannah, who is much too pushy for an indentured servant girl. Jake and his friends know that the British are causing problems, but are glad to be patriots. In the second year, Jake fights with his overbearing father about showing up at the muster before he is 16. After his father beats him, he happens upon a man being tarred and feathered by the patriots and being accused of being a Tory. The man is the father of one of his friends. By the third year, the situation with the British has gotten to the point where they attack East Haven, and after a long fight, Jake and his friend Tim are captured and put onto the Bonhomme, a ship that they are on until Tim is killed in a battle. In the last chapter, we see Jake being sheltered in a Tory household after his escape from the ship. Once he admits to his hosts that he is a patriot, they send him on his way home to see his father, and Hannah, who has indeed waited for him.
Strengths: This is an interesting way to show the events of the war and their impact on a boy not much older than my students. It’s full of action and adventure. Readers who like Paul Dowswell’s Powder Monkey trilogy (and that was oddly popular this year in my library) will like this one.
Weaknesses: I felt like I was missing some details, skipping from year to year, but most of the gaps were explained.
Calkhoven, Laurie. Will and the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863.
In June of 1863, the small town of Gettysburg is atwitter when they realize a battle will be coming their way. Will, who would dearly love to join the army as a drummer boy, thinks that it will be an exciting adventure. When the Rebels arrive, however, he realizes that it is more serious. The blacks in town are rounded up and subjected to ill treatment; this angers will, who rushes at a soldier, allowing a few of the blacks to escape. He is on the verge of being sent to prison, but the young soldier who is supposed to take him, Abel, befriends him instead. Will takes Abel to his house to feed and clothe him. As the battle draws closer, Will’s sisters are sent to a farm outside of town, although Will’s mother refuses to leave. Soon, fighting is going on, and Will gets drawn into the action when a man shows up at their house wounded, but needing to get a message to the general. Historical notes, as well as a time line, add a lot to this historical account.
Strengths: I liked that this was from the point of view of a resident of the town who was at the periphery of the fighting. I will definitely look for Daniel and the Siege of Boston, and hope that there is also a WWII title.
Weaknesses: The title, and the cover, make this seem rather young. This would be good for my boys who like to read about war, and while I’m sure that 4th graders would pick this up avidly, it might take some convincing to get my 8th graders to read it, which is a shame.