J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Revolutionary Literature for Young People

I don’t want to pass over the other book just nominated for the National Book Award that touches on the period of America’s founding. It appears in the Young People’s Literature category: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson. The publisher has described its story thusly:

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel.

When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
I’m guessing that any characters named “Lockton” aren’t really into that freedom thing.

Anderson is also the author of Fever 1793, about the devastating yellow fever epidemic in the U.S. of A.’s capital, and the nonfiction Independent Dames. We were corresponding about the phrase “Year of the Hangman” back here.

And speaking of Revolutionary War Novels about Enslaved Young People by Authors Named Anderson Nominated for a National Book Award in the Category of Young People’s Literature, folks might recall M. T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party from a couple of years ago.

This fall has brought us The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume Two: The Kingdom on the Waves. Octavian experiences more of the siege of Boston, this time from the inside, and takes off for Virginia. Publishers Weekly interviewed Anderson alongside a photo of him with some redcoat reenactors on Boston Common this summer. Anyone you recognize?

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