In our US History studies this year we’ve hit the Revolutionary War period, and we’ve already completed a few read-alouds related to this theme.
I hadn’t necessarily intended for all my bedtime read-alouds with Miss M to be focused around our history themes, but so far that has been the case. After finishing The Witch of Blackbird Pond, I thought we would go for non-history read aloud. We read one chapter of The Wind in the Willows, and neither of us really liked it. I know it’s a classic, but I wasn’t impressed after that short trial. I checked out a “Classic Starts” abridged version, and I may assign that to Miss M at some point in the near future.
I needed a new read-aloud more quickly than I expected, but I didn’t have some of the other history-related titles for Miss M handy (and she requested another history read-aloud). So, I looked at All Through the Ages to see if I could find something that I could acquire as a free ebook. A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia by Alice Turner Curtiss seemed to fit the bill, so I downloaded it from Amazon.
A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia takes place in British-occupied Philadelphia in 1778. Ten year old Ruth Pennell is the “little maid” of this book (there are several other “Little Maid” titles by the same author featuring different girls in different cities). As the story opens, Ruth’s aunt is staying with her while her mother is away caring for an ill relative and her Father is with General Washington’s army — and Ruth’s dog is missing. Ruth takes matters into her own hands to find the dog (and meets an important figure in the British army in the process!). She has a series of other adventures along with a few of her friends that culminate in her very own opportunity to help the Patriots in the war effort.
Miss M and I generally both like these kind of “episodic” stories about young girls and their adventures, and this was no exception. I think I can see, though, why this one maybe didn’t survive the test of time to become a well-known classic. Compared to more modern works (or even more “classic” older books), the tone of A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia was a bit moralistic at times. Ruth got herself into a bit of trouble with some of her adventures, and the author was not particularly subtle about what lesson Ruth (and the readers of the story) was supposed to learn about asking permission to do things, borrowing things that belong to others or letting a grown-up know where you are going!
These obvious moral lessons didn’t seem to bother Miss M at all — she was very eager to read other titles in this series (at least four of which were available free in Kindle format at amazon.com — I haven’t looked around to see if any of the other titles in the series are available as free ebooks).
After A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia, we moved on to Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady. Ellen Toliver is another 10 year old girl, this time living in New York City (also occupied by the British). Though I didn’t catch a date in this story, from the events described I would guess it perhaps takes place in 1777. Ellen is shocked to learn that her Grandfather is a spy for the patriots. When Grandfather is injured and can’t take a secret message across the river, he asks Ellen to take his place. It was supposed to be a simple mission of riding across the river with the merchants and finding Grandfather’s friend at a tavern. Nothing goes according to plan, however, and typically-timid Ellen is faced with a very difficult and dangerous journey.
This was a quick and exciting read for Miss M and I. She could have easily read it on her own (and did read a couple chapters out-loud one night while I put away my laundry!), I enjoyed sharing it together with her.
After finishing this book we started another Revolutionary spy tale – Sophia’s War by Avi. This is a bit more mature and complex story. We’re only a few chapters into it, and I’m eager to find out how this book will develop.
Finally, I have a picture book read aloud to share: Those Rebels, John & Tom, by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Thanks to Amy @ Hope is the Word for the recommendation of this title! We have quite a few picture books from this era in our book basket, but Miss M has been reading most of them independently, and the boys haven’t been picking them on their own. Finally this week I asked Mr. E to pick a book from the history book basket as a part of his school time, and Mr K and Miss M decided to listen as well. Those Rebels, John and Tom is a biography of two famously different friends — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who put aside their differences for the good of a new nation. I loved Kerley’s writing style — it’s pretty lighthearted for a serious topic, which makes it all the more fun for everyone listening to the book. The illustrations are a bit in the style of political cartoons, and the kids enjoyed looking for some of the details in the pictures.
We’re knee deep in Revolutionary War books around here, so I’m sure I’ll have more to share in future weeks!
I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!