Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Guns for General Washington

Guns for General Washington, Seymour Reit
(Gulliver Books, 1990), pb. 142 pp.
Ages 7 and up

This book tells the story of Henry Knox’s daring mission to cross 300 miles of forest bring 183 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to George Washington’s army in Boston. This is a significant event in the early part of the Revolutionary War, a mission which many thought was impossible. This book tells the story from the perspective of Knox’s 19 year old brother Will.

This is one my boys (ages 11, 9 and 7) read on their own. They all said they learned more about Henry Knox and this mission. I was glad for this since Knox is often ignored even though he was one of Washington’s closest advisors and eventually served as the first Secretary of War. Nathan also mentioned that perseverance was highlighted often.

My two older boys both said the story was a bit slow though. Matthew said, “Don’t expect action-packed in spite of what it says on the front cover.” Jonathan, however, enjoyed the book more.

So, it was a worthwhile book for them to read. I think it simply did not live up to some of their favorites; and, even kids can be disappointed by overstated PR. :)


Monday, November 05, 2007

The Sign of the Beaver

The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
(Random House, 1983), pb., 135 pp.
Ages 6-13

This is pretty good book set in the frontier of Maine in colonial America. The main character, 12 year old Matt, along with his father has gone out to their newly purchased land in Maine to build a house and plant their crops. Then the father leaves his son with the home and crops to retrieve the rest of the family. On his own the boy must work hard, deal with visitors and Indian encounters. When his father’s return is delayed he faces difficult choices regarding survival, friendship, loyalty and perseverance.

The key value of the book, in my opinion, is the portrayal of responsibility and perseverance. The story is adventurous in places but slow in other places. The value of books emerges in the story when an Indian chief wants Matt to teach his grandson to read. The value of good stories is particularly highlighted. The boy even realizes along the way that the best stories he has are Bible stories. However, there are also less positive takes on the faith in the book.

This book has won numerous awards, but I was not so overwhelmed. In the end, it is a worthwhile read though not a ‘favorite.’ It provides a good portrayal of frontier life in this era.