Monday, August 6, 2018

Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

Selene Castrovilla has written several picture books and short chapter books on the American Revolution. I've used them in book clubs and recommended them to teachers and, after several years with no new titles, was pleased to see that she had come out with some new books. Somehow, I discovered at this time that I'd missed some of her earlier works, including this one which features the friendship between George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette.

The story begins with the arrival of Lafayette in American in 1777. He met Washington and was quickly impressed by him. Washington wasn't very interested in the little Frenchman - their previous experience with the French had not been good. But they needed allies and so he was polite. It was the beginning of a close friendship. Washington eventually came to be close friends, almost a father figure to the young Frenchman. Lafayette, given a chance, fought valiantly for the Americans, cementing both his worth to the cause and his close friendship with Washington.

An extensive back note gives the rest of the story; Lafayette's involvement in the rest of the war, the eventual separation of the two friends, divided by wars, imprisonment, and tensions between the two countries. Lafayette's last visit to American came too late for him to meet his hero, but he was given a great welcome by the American people.

Further resources include a timeline of both men, places of interest to visit in the US and France, a bibliography, and several other resources. There are also quotes from Lafayette included in each segment of the story.

This didn't quite click for me as much as Castrovilla's other works. It's laid out very definitely as a picture book, which is a very difficult sell in my library; both parents and kids consider anything in picture book format to be a "baby book" and some of our schools' reading programs count by page number. Gah. I preferred Castrovilla's books that are more chapter book style. Although this was lengthy and had some great dialogue and a look at what is now a little-known episode of the American Revolution, I felt that for the audience it lacked a lot of context. Most of the 3rd and 4th graders I work with don't know the basics of the American Revolution, let alone the more complex history behind the involvement with France and England. I felt like more context would have made this more accessible to the kids.

Verdict: While I don't feel this stands alone well, it is a good supplementary text for students learning about the American Revolution. I will be recommending it to teachers and especially to my homeschool students. I purchased it as part of my work on updating our 900s section with a wider selection of titles.

ISBN: 9781590788806; Published 2013 by Calkins Creek; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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