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George Washington’s Secret Six (Young Readers Adaptation) by Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S SECRET SIX
The Spies Who Saved America
Written by Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger
(Viking; $17.99, Ages 10 and up)

 

cover illustration from George Washington's Secret Six Young Readers Adaptation

 

 

George Washington’s Secret Six, a young readers adaptation of the New York Times bestseller about George Washington’s top-secret spy ring that helped defeat the British, is a must-read for history buffs and anyone who relishes a riveting spy story filled with fascinating facts and bravery by the boatload. I’m so glad this book was written so that I could brush up on my Revolutionary War details, many of which I have long forgotten (or never knew!).

The stakes were high for General George Washington in 1776. With the British occupation seemingly never-ending, Washington and the Continental Army needed to get a leg up on the Redcoats who had recently conquered New York City, forcing Washington and his army into a hasty retreat. The British had the clear advantage. They had the might of the Crown behind them and the money, meaning they had ships, weapons, food and an army ready to do all it took to defeat the fledgling nation.

Knowing he had few options, Washington chose a different approach, one that, though financially not expensive, could ultimately cost lives if discovered. The general had to tread carefully and trust was an essential component in his plan. He’d form a team of undercover operatives so he and his troops could gain the advantage over the British. Set against the backdrop of 18th century Manhattan, Long Island and Connecticut, the story of the Culper Spy Ring, which was active until very near the end of the war, is an amazing tale of heroism and stealth, creativity and cunning.

Told in four parts with forty brief but engaging chapters, Kilmeade and Yaeger recount this overlooked intelligence network that played a significant role in America’s success. The Culper Spy Ring was comprised of a reserved merchant, a tavern keeper, a brash young longshoreman, a curmudgeonly Long Island bachelor, a coffeehouse owner, and a mysterious woman, possibly a socialite, known as Agent 355. Together they employed tactics such as using code, invisible ink and even going to work for the Loyalists in order to gain insider knowledge of upcoming battle plans, troop movements and even their secret code.

Middle grade readers will learn about Nathan Hale’s brief attempt to spy and how his lack of fitting in called him out as an imposter. The British’s foiled efforts to disseminate counterfeit money to ruin the economy is also explained. They’ll read about the important role the French played as America’s ally. They’ll find out how hard it was to operate without being detected and the clever ways the spies sent crucial information via land and sea (okay, the Long Island Sound to be exact) under cover of darkness. The authors clearly convey all the risks involved in these missions which could easily culminate in hanging and that’s what will keep kids involved. I constantly found myself wondering if one of the spies was going to be caught. The danger involved was palpable with every page turn. One of the most interesting sections of the book dealt with Benedict Arnold. I knew his name was synonymous with traitor but I honestly never knew the degree to which he sold out the Americans. The devotion to the cause of freedom knew no boundaries for the top-secret spy ring as depicted in George Washington’s Secret Six (Young Readers Adaptation). Who knows how things would have turned out were it not for the six patriotic spies?

Over 25 pages of excellent back matter are included for those who crave more details. Here readers will find several pages devoted to the postwar lives of the Culper Ring, information about the use of invisible ink and alphabetical codes, a comprehensive timeline, sources and an index. Another aspect of the book I liked was how black and white engravings, paintings, illustrations and photos were incorporated to firmly ground readers in the colonial time period. This well-researched true story resonated with me since many of events took place close to where I grew up on Long Island. I’m now eager to visit many of the locales mentioned if they still exist. Kilmeade and Yaeger have written a terrific nonfiction book that provides an accessible way to get tweens and teens interested in our country’s history, if they’re not already. Perhaps it will even prompt further reading about this critical time in the formation of the United States.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Also recommended: Heroes of History Series – George Washington

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Two Engaging New Activity Books From Chicago Review Press

9781556529559Theodore Roosevelt, Brains, Brawn and a Love of Nature

Reading Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times by Kerrie Logan Hollihan made me realize that there is so much I do not know about the fascinating lives of our past presidents, including this 26th President of the U.S. Did you know that both Roosevelt’s wife, Alice, and his mother died on the very same day in 1884? Or that his oldest child, Alice, named after her mother, was a wild and outspoken woman, who carried a green snake in her purse named after her stepmother’s skinny sister?

Born in 1858 to a wealthy family in New York, as a young boy, Roosevelt was called “Teddie” by his parents (and later “Teddy” by all). Young Teddie was a sickly, asthmatic child, but that did not stop him from seeking knowledge about the world. He was fascinated by nature and read voraciously about a variety of subjects that interested him. He hunted, collected birds, insects and fish and studied them in detail. Due to the family’s wealth, the Roosevelts traveled a great deal, and by the time Roosevelt attended college he had been to Europe twice as well as the Middle East.

Readers of this book will discover much more about his fascinating, adventurous personal life and how Roosevelt often voiced his political opinions while attending Harvard, leading to his long political career. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1881, served as Republican Vice President to William McKinley in 1900 and took over office as President (as the youngest to ever hold office at age 42) when McKinley was assassinated in 1901. President Roosevelt was loved for his great balance of understanding between big business and ordinary working class people. He believed people should be judged individually and not classified by popular opinion. His role in helping put an end to the Russo-Japanese war earned him a Nobel Prize for Peace. Today Teddy Roosevelt is remembered for his adventure travel, love of nature and his laws to preserve our nation’s natural wonders; he worked hard to protect our forests and established the U.S. National Park Service.

Kids will not only learn fascinating facts about Roosevelt but can also participate in 21 fun activities, such as drawing out Roosevelt’s many travels on a world map, stargazing by seasons and making a campaign button. There are resources in the back of the book to guide curious readers to more information.

9781569762806Native Americans, Culture, Conflicts and Treaties

Did you know that there are 562 different American Indian Tribes? Or that the true story of Pocahontas and John Smith is that Pocahontas was a young child when she met the much older John Smith, and there was never a romance between them? You’ll discover these facts and many more when you read   Native American History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson.

There is a great deal of essential information about American Indians packed into this book including theories on how Indians arrived on the North American Continent, what life was like when European settlers came to America, wars and peace treaties, the destruction of many reservations at the end of the 19th Century, and modern lifestyles for Native Americans.

I love the offset copy in the book that features famous Native Americans like Jim Thorpe, one of the best athletes in U.S .history, who faced many hardships, and famous English settlers like Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth, an interpreter who was instrumental in encouraging peace between Indians and settlers in the 1730s.

Kids who read this book will not only get insight into the lives of Native Americans but will also get important lessons on many different milestones in American history, such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War and much more. Plus there are 21 activities; how to make Arapaho Fry Bread; creating a Three-Sisters Garden; making a totem pole; and even how to decipher a Navajo code. There’s a glossary of important terms and a detailed index at the back of the book. Everyone in the family should read this and talk about what they’ve learned together!

What I like about the Chicago Review Press biographical/history books for kids is that they are straight-forward, comprehensive, informative and never patronizing to young readers. Even though they are written for children, they are always a great read for adults too. They encourage you think, inspire you to do great things and leave you yearning to research more about the subject.

debbiegladeDebbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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