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, July 17, 2021

Looking Back on the Career of Ann Rinaldi

The novelist Ann Rinaldi died early this month at the age of eighty-six.

Rinaldi was best known for her historical novels about teen-aged girls involved in significant historical events, particularly the American Revolution.

She was a newspaper columnist who published a couple of contemporary young adult novels in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, her son Ronald had become a reenactor in the Bicentennial, drawing his sister into the hobby. So of course the parents had to travel with them.

“My son dragged us to every battlefield, monument, fort, and battleground, north and south, from Saratoga to Yorktown,” Rinaldi told Something About the Author. Reenacting immerses participants in the concerns of daily life—clothing, food, handcrafts. Those same details make historical fiction immersive.

Rinaldi applied her growing history knowledge to the Y.A. field to produce the novel Time Enough for Drums, set around the Battle of Trenton. Though historical fiction isn’t always popular with kids, it had a boom in the 1990s. Rinaldi soon made a specialty of stories set in the past. She often took well documented, well known families as her starting-points and mixed in the concerns of her teen-aged readers. And she was prolific.

Rinaldi’s novels set in the long eighteenth century include:
  • Time Enough for Drums (1986)
  • Wolf by the Ears (1991)
  • A Ride into Morning: The Story of Tempe Wick (1991)
  • A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials (1992)
  • The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre (1993)
  • Finishing Becca: The Story of Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold (1994)
  • The Secret of Sarah Revere (1995)
  • Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley (1996)
  • The Second Bend in the River (1997)
  • Cast Two Shadows: The American Revolution in South Carolina (1998)
  • Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge, George Washington’s Runaway Slave (2002)
  • Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry’s Family (2003)
In addition, Rinaldi wrote about the U.S. Civil War, westward settlement, immigrant neighborhoods—almost fifty novels in all.

In 2017 Laura Ansley, now managing editor at the American Historical Association, wrote at the Junto: “With her focus on teenage heroines, Rinaldi showed that history wasn’t only about important men. Young women experienced these historical events too, and their stories were also worth telling. . . . Speaking with other female academics around my age, I know that I’m not the only one who read and loved these books.”


Unknown said...

I was a bit too old for Ann Rinaldi's books, so only came to know her work as an adult working in a history museum. I will never forget hearing her give a talk at Old South when a certain Boston history blogger (!) asked her about the preponderance of heroines with daddy complexes in her work. La! How i laughed!

optivion said...

WOLF BY EARS was a great story!