Saturday, August 07, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- Blades of Freedom

Hale, Nathan. Blades of Freedom. (Hazardous Tales #10)
November 24th 2020 by Amulet Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales have always struck me as an Americanized version of Deary's 1990s Horrible Histories, which were later made into a television series on Children's BBC. As someone who once bought an enormous box of Frosties while on holiday in London just to get the CD of The Rotten Romans that was included in the package, I'm always glad to see new books from this author.

Hale is great at highlighting aspects of history that have not previously been in the forefront of study; in this case, he looks at the Louisiana Purchase from the point of view not of Thomas Jefferson, but from the point of view of enslaved Blacks in the Caribbean and peasants in France, and bringing Napoleon and his policies into play. One of my quibbles with the way history is studied in school has long been that timelines from different areas of the world are often presented in isolation, so I enjoyed how this book explained how these things were all interrelated. Most US histories do not talk about Haiti and its abolition of slavery. This is a convoluted story, with lots of sidebars of information, but Hale does a good job of tying things together.

The pictures help, especially since this is a historical period that looks very different from the modern day. Students, whose eyes are much better than mine, do not seem to mind the small scale of the pictures and the tiny font of the text. There is a lot packed into the pages, and I wouldn't mind if these books were produced in a larger, more picture book sized version rather than the slightly smaller than 6" by 8" format being used. There are so many details in the pictures, and quite a lot of information in the text as well.

As in previous books, Nathan Hale, along with the Hangman and Provost, take us through the history, giving snarky asides and sometimes explaining things. This gives the reader a break from the more serious aspects of the history, and also provides background. Because Hale is telling the story of the enslaved Haitians, its good that he also uses Bill Richmond, a BIPOC character.

There's a "Louisiana Purchase Wheel of History" slot-machine; this is a helpful device to introduce new topics and to help keep them all straight. There are all sorts of side topics-- mosquitoes who brought yellow fever chime in, Queen Luisa of Spain has her say, as done Napoleon's sister Pauline, and even Thomas Jefferson, although he does not come off as well as he does in some other histories!

Readers who enjoyed the Franklin Watts' You Wouldn't Want to Be books, or whose interests include both history and graphic novels, will find the continuation of this series to be a welcome way to learn some interesting history that hasn't been covered as much as it should.

Like many graphic novels, these smell really, really bad, and do not hold up to frequent use. Buy in a prebind instead of the publishers paper over board when possible. 

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