Saturday, September 29, 2007

Traitor, the Case of Benedict Arnold

Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold, Jean Fritz
(Paperstar, 1981), pb., 192 pp.
Ages 10+

This presents the biographical data well, though it is not a real exciting read. It is solid as a biography goes, but the blurbs on the back which describe it as “a thriller” and “highly entertaining” really overstate the case. We had to push our way through most of the book. There was a bit more adventure towards the end. In spite of all the battles earlier in the book this story focuses more on the thoughts and character of Arnold than the action. That is why I have rated this for older children.

The discussion of Arnold’s character does provide for good discussion. My boys knew of Arnold’s treachery already but said, we always thought Arnold was just good up to the point he turned traitor. They had known of some of his battlefield bravery (which is also in this book), but did not know of Arnold’s self-centeredness, vanity and money hungriness that was evident from an earlier time. This led to good discussions on the point that great sins do not just occur in a vacuum. Smaller, earlier decisions shape character which leads to the big actions whether of treachery or nobility. Also anything which highlights the evil of betrayal is worthwhile.

Lastly, though, I was surprised to find several incidences of profanity in this book. This makes no sense to me in a book aimed at children. As I read I just edited these statements since the profanity, as typical, was really unnecessary for the point. Thus, my age recommendation refers to the age group for this book to be read to. If you are thinking of the child himself reading, a higher age would be in view.

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