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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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reviewing Henry and the Cannons

I quoted the October 1775 inventory of Continental artillery ordnance yesterday because it bears on my review in the latest issue of The Horn Book.

I looked at Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown, officially published today. This is a picture-book retelling of Henry Knox’s trek to Lake Champlain to collect cannon and mortars for the Continental Army around Boston.

As an artist Brown has a somewhat “cartoony” style that’s lively and often funny, but he doesn’t turn his illustrations into cartoons. (With one exception: his picture of the firing from Dorchester Heights leaves out the stretch of water between there and Boston, which is kind of important.) He depicts Knox’s draft animals all as oxen; most were horses, but these oxen have such long-suffering expressions that I thought they were cute.

Brown’s text errs in following previous retellings that said Gen. George Washington’s army had no cannon until Knox got involved. That was the main flaw I saw in the book, which is otherwise grounded in period sources (particularly Knox’s diary) and well written for its target age group.

Back in 2008, Brown addressed the start of the siege of Boston with Let It Begin Here!: April 19, 1775: The Day the American Revolution Began, which I also reviewed for The Horn Book. It has a more complex history to tell, so Brown used more text and smaller pictures. I saw a few glitches in that book, but overall I thought it was quite solid.

1 comment:

John L Smith Jr said...

As an illustrator, I can also add that oxen are easier to draw than horses ... and yes, are able to embody funnier expressions. Huzzah for creating a fun-to-read and interesting history book for kids!