Thursday, May 19, 2016

Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale's latest hazardous tale of American history takes on an interesting subject - the Alamo. Despite having been raised in Texas, in Austin (which is quite close to the Alamo) I know very little about it other than some vague ideas gathered from historical novels. But there's a lot more to the story...

Hale expands his universe by bringing in a new magical history book - El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana - and Vicente Guerrero (along with his own executioners) to tell a story down south....

The story begins with a brief explanation of Mexican independence and then delves into the complicated story of Texas' early history. Hale carefully lays out the players in the complicated events from the various native tribes to different groups of settles. He even includes some animals, like rattlesnakes and armadillos! Despite the executioners' interest in hearing the stories of Jean Lafitte (pirate controlling Galveston) and maybe having an "executioner slumber party" the story marches inexorably on, introducing famous characters like diplomat Stephen Austin, reckless lawyer William Barret Travis, and their interaction with the changing scene of Mexican politics, from Guerrero to Bustamante to Santa Anna. There are side trips to learn about James Bowie, Santa Anna's rise to power, and constant unrest and uprisings across Texas. In the end, the Alamo is but one story among many on the complicated, violent road to Texas independence and eventual statehood.

Hale's color scheme for this title is a kind of sickly yellow and gray, suitable for the general color of Texas (Yes, I grew up there. No, I'm not a fan. It's green for like, two seconds in April and October.) and the cholera epidemic that overshadows the complicated political maneuvering and violent battles. Although he includes the well-known and "popular" characters - Crockett, Travis, Austin, Bowie, etc. he also includes as many references to and stories of native populations and local settlers as possible, keeping the book strongly representative of Texas' diverse population. Hale's stories are, as always, funny, informative, and fascinating reading but also include a nuanced portrait of the events and people involved.

Verdict: Another great history title from Nathan Hale! This will be a cinch to booktalk at upcoming summer events, whether or not you're in Texas. The whole series is highly recommended (although Big Bad Ironclad remains my all-time favorite).

ISBN: 9781419719028; Published 2016 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

2 comments:

Annette Bay Pimentel said...

I don't think my seventh grader has read any of these yet. Maybe this is the one to start him on.

Jennifer said...

Well, my personal favorite is Big Bad Ironclad, but I would start with the first, One Dead Spy, because it gives the back story of the framing narrative.