As we continue working our way through our stack of books on the Revolutionary War, we’ve finished two more chapter books from that time period — Sophia’s War by Avi and Ben and Me by Robert Lawson.
Twelve-year-old Sophia Calderwood lives with her parents in British-occupied New York City in 1776. She and her family are patriots, though they keep this fact well-hidden in order to secure their safety. Her older brother had earlier joined the Continental army, and initially Sophia and her parents do not know his fate. Unfortunately, Sophia learns that her brother has been captured and thrown in a British jail. Conditions in the British jails are horrendous, and, despite Sophia’s best efforts to prevent it, her brother dies in captivity.
Soon after this event in the story, the narrative jumps ahead to 1780. Now 15, Sophia is providing for her family by working in a print shop. She meets a mysterious gentleman who gives her an unusual opportunity — Sophia becomes a housemaid in the British military headquarters in New York, with the intention of reporting information to the Americans. She uncovers a plot so unbelievable (involving Benedict Arnold), she will have to go to extreme lengths to stop the treason.
Miss M and both really enjoyed this book, the first we have read by Avi. The short chapters keep the action moving quickly (and easily entice me into reading one more chapter. And then another, and another…). It’s the type of book that had I been reading it to myself, I might have stayed up very late to finish. 🙂
It’s obvious that this book is very well researched — I love how Avi wove Sophia’s story into the true story of Benedict Arnold’s attempt to give West Point to the British. This is definitely not a story for a very sensitive child — Avi doesn’t hesitate to describe things like a hanging and the awful conditions in which the British held American prisoners. Overall, I’m very glad I added this one to my list of read-alouds for the Revolutionary War!
In contrast to Sophia’s War, Ben and Me by Robert Lawson is one of those historical fiction books that barely qualifies for the label “historical”. I read this to all the kids, mostly as an “afternoon snack time” read-aloud. Ben and Me is written from the perspective of a pet mouse, Amos, who is supposed to have lived in Ben Franklin’s hat.
Throughout the story we get the “real” perspective on events in Ben’s life. It was Amos who provides the ideas to invent the Franklin stove, who assists with electricity and lightning experiments and who runs from dignitary to dignitary to listen in and tell Ben what is really going on.
This was a light, funny read-aloud that the boys could easily follow along with. I’m not sure there was as much “educational value” here as many of the history-related fiction books we’ve read, but it was fun nonetheless.
I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word!