Monday, April 30, 2018

Revolutionary Rogues by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by John O'Brien

I'm not a huge fan of historical picture books or John O'Brien's pointilistic style - but I am a big fan of Selena Castrovilla's historical nonfiction so I wasted no time in grabbing up this book as soon as I heard about it.

Castrovilla tells the parallel stories of John Andre and Benedict Arnold in short clips, organized by date and location. Both were popular, well-educated, and longed for glory and to be distinguished on the battlefield. One was hanged in disgrace as a spy, but still had the honor of both his fellow soldiers and the respect of the opposing army. The other's name became synonymous with "traitor" and although he saved his own life, he was despised by both sides.

Castrovilla gives a nuanced portrait of two important figures in the American revolution for young readers, showing both the action and excitement of the war and the complex loyalties and motivations of those who fought. Detailed sources are included as well as the aftermath of Andre and Benedict's actions, historical sites, timelines, and additional information.

O'Brien's style doesn't convey a great deal of emotion, but it adds color and interest to the book, which is laid out in picture book format. Many of the pictures are laid out in panels or scenes, making them feel like historic woodcuts or scenes in a theater production.

Verdict: Castrovilla's strength lies in created nuanced portraits and action-packed narratives of the American revolution for young readers and this is a great addition to her small but excellent body of work. Readers will be absorbed by the tense action and eager to discuss afterwards. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781629793412; Published 2017 by Calkins Creek; Purchased for the library

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