Monday, May 27, 2013

George Washington's Spy

George Washington's Spy (Time Travel Adventures)is the time traveling sequel to George Washington's Socks (Time Travel Adventures)
which I reviewed earlier.

This sequel has the children returning to the Revolutionary War, but to a time before their previous visit. This time the boys have been assigned to read about Washington's fortifications at Dorchester Heights, but before they can complete the assignment, the boat arrives allowing them to live the assignment.

Perhaps the author realized the book needed more girls, because in this story while the boys are camping out, Katie is staying with a group of girls next door and when they don't believe her about having met George Washington, she becomes determined to show them where the boat is stored and the adventure begins.

The author wants to provide the reader with a chance to see life in Boston from a Tory or loyalist perspective and that of a Patriot or rebel one. To do this she splits up the boys and the girls. Katie's foot is hurt in the journey. While the boys head off to find help, Patriots capture them and the girls are taken in and cared for by a Tory family who mistakes them for the children of British aristocracy. This split allows the author to provide more insight and perhaps some balance in telling the story of the evacuation of Boston.

As I mentioned in my review of Woodruff's previous book, her novels provide great background knowledge for children with the added draw of fantasy. However, they can be graphic. In this novel, we see how the tensions between the Tories and the Patriots play out and it can be harsh. While many students may have heard of tar and feathering, the author personalizes it when the Tory father of the girls that rescue Matt's friends is tarred and feathered and dies in Matt's arms. As in the first book, Matt is led to question his belief that one side is good and the other evil in this conflict. In a similar situation, the same father is afraid to have his Patriot brother-in-law in his house for fear of what the British soldiers would do to his family, even though his personal loyalties are clear. He ultimately is killed for them. Through the character's eyes, we see that the situation is complicated.

I thought this was an important topic that is not often addressed, especially in children's literature. While the Sons of Liberty is given credit for getting the movement started, there was also a fear that without controls the mob could turn the Revolution into a mob action. Surviving Tories and Patriots would live to see what unchecked mob violence would accomplish during the French Revolution. The fears were not realized here, but many Tories and Patriots both had reasons to fear that the potential existed. While Hancock and other Boston merchants backed the cause of freedom, they also knew they had to restore order or chaos would destroy them, too.

Living in New England, I've always been aware of the story of Dorchester Heights and the evacuation of Boston. In fact while most people get confused, Boston does not have a city holiday for St. Patrick's Day, it is technically Evacuation Day in Boston. The city celebrates the day the troops left. What this book addresses that I never thought much about is who left. I knew the troops boarded ships and left, but they didn't just abandon Tory families to their fate, they helped them leave, too. I knew many families immigrated to Canada and some back to England after the Revolution. However, I never thought about it in relation to the evacuation of Boston. While some stayed, it was quite dangerous for those that did. Many Tories already facing mob attacks with British protection, feared death without any military protection. They left under British naval protection. Some settled in Canada, others moved to colonies still under British protection, and others who had the resources returned to England. To illustrate the rush to evacuate our characters almost end up immigrating to Halifax. They manage to get off the boat and once again, Katie saves the day when she spies the boat.

As always, I suggest parents or teachers review the book before using. However, I think this is a great resource for providing children with the historical background on the evacuation of Boston and a historical perspective on life for the Tories during this time.

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