A solid addition to the canon.


Move over, Thomas Paine! Revolutionary War writer and activist finds fame! First biography for young readers published!

Mercy Otis of colonial Massachusetts did not attend college but studied at home with her father’s encouragement. After her marriage to James Warren, she began writing and joined the political discussions about breaking ties with Great Britain that were held in her home. As open rebellion grew closer, she wrote political plays, albeit unsigned. When fighting broke out, Warren began an ambitious project—a history of the American Revolution, concentrating on “radical thoughts and bold actions.” It was published in 1805 under her name. Woelfle’s lively and informative style keeps the narrative flowing. Wallner’s gouache paintings are colorful and spirited, with a good mix of full-page scenes and close-ups of prominent figures. In a nice touch, Mercy Otis Warren's Copley portrait hanging in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is reproduced. Decorative inserts excerpt her writings and those of her father and her husband. It is usually Abigail Adams who gets the nod whenever women of colonial and revolutionary-era America are mentioned, so this title certainly fills a niche.

A solid addition to the canon. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-822-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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A crisp historical vignette.



A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Entirely inappropriate for children.


Aimed less at children and more at Southern sympathizers, this alphabet book is an ill-conceived paean to the Confederacy.

Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by an illustration and a short, often limping verse, most of which feature people and events that will be unfamiliar to today’s young readers (not to mention the general adult population, Civil War buffs notwithstanding). Unfortunately, the text lacks explanatory notes to give these items context and fails to provide an overarching narrative of the polemical version of the Civil War story it seems to take for granted. Take F, for example: “F is for the flags / Of the old Confederacy; / And for Nathan Bedford Forrest / A devil to every Yankee!” No further description of Forrest or his role in the war is forthcoming. Further, the narrator’s intense identification with the Confederate cause comes through clearly when he uses the first person (“D is for bright ‘Dixie,’ / A song we love to hear”) and in verses such as, “Y is for the Yankees, / The enemy in blue, / Invading beloved Dixie / To conquer and subdue.” Slavery is not mentioned in the text, yet the illustrations feature white and black soldiers fighting side by side for the Confederacy as well as a black woman comforting a white child as flames rage in the background. Absent historical context and competing perspectives, this far-from-center picture book lacks educational or entertainment value and is little more than propaganda designed to perpetuate “the South will rise again” mentality.

Entirely inappropriate for children. (song lyrics, timeline) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58980-760-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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