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Author: L. M. Elliott

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Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: paperback

Summary: Under “normal” circumstances, life is filled with complexities for young adolescents. The year is 1774 and you have landed in Williamsburg, Virginia. Meet Nathanial Dunn, 13, parent-less, and penniless. He is forced into indentured servitude and to top it all, there is talk of war with England and rebellion among the slaves. Although the story is fictional, Nathaniel’s experiences are authentic and accurately describe the issues, events, and personalities that led to the founding of the United States of America. This is an historical fiction novel for middle-grade readers. This is a High Interest / Low Readability option for struggling readers.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 9 to 12

Reading Level: 2.8

Age of Child: Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™

Young Reader Reaction: The author incorporates a lot of high-quality narration and historical analysis in this rich work. The characters are well-crafted, well-developed, and grab the reader’s attention. They respond and change realistically based on their environment, and the way they interact brings out the emotions of that tense time period. The courage and maturity young Nathaniel has in the face of his difficult choices provide a sharp contrast to the comparatively easy lives of many modern youth. This book is best for students in grades 5-8. It gives them valuable historical insight that might also coincide with their classwork. The author very cleverly gets the reader to question the legitimacy of either side’s complaints. She provides a fresh and innovative point of view to the matter and picks on the question of what liberty really means. Overall, this historical novel provides an educational, scope-widening, and engaging read.

Adult Reader Reaction: This book is excellent. Through Nathaniel Dunn’s life experiences, the author has provided a balanced, informative, and accurate picture of the many facets of life in colonial Virginia up to and through the war for independence.

Pros: Readers will find this to be an enjoyable and educational story. The author weaves in meticulous details and paints a true picture of the difficulty and tension of life during the Revolutionary War.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a delightful and informative piece of historical fiction. Young readers will find the characters to be authentic and the plot realistic. There are plenty of exciting episodes to keep young minds and pages turning. This is an excellently crafted work that is as informative as it is an enjoyable read.

If You Liked This Book, Try: WAR KIDS 1941-1945; WW II Through the Eyes of Children   RED THUNDER; SECRETS, SPIES, AND SCOUNDRELS AT YORKTOWN   ALEXANDER HAMILTON: YOUNG STATESMAN (Young Patriot Series)

Educational Themes: Nathaniel Dunn’s experiences provide a rich source of material for group discussion. The author includes 20 pages of notes on writing historical fiction. This is a wonderful resource unto itself and offers a way to engage kids in writing.

Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, US history, Virginia History, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: April 2008

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