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The Secret Mission of William Tuck Paperback – September 1, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—In 1781, 12-year-old William Tuck, son of a modest Virginia farmer, sees his older brother executed by a British firing squad. Rage and grief propel him to run away to join the militia as a drummer. Accompanied by Rebecca, the resourceful daughter of a captured patriot, he encounters notable figures from the Revolutionary period, including James Armistead and Peter Francisco. Together they smuggle a secret message to Gen. George Washington in Dobbs Ferry, thus securing victory at the Battle of Yorktown. A series of risky encounters gives them a crash course in spy rings and cryptography, and Rebecca's need to go undercover as a boy highlights gender roles of the time. The action is unrelenting, if sometimes repetitive, and the fast pace combined with nonstop violence and unflinching descriptions of unsavory aspects of 18th-century medicine and combat will engage readers who may not normally choose historical fiction. Instructive end notes provide an extension to the novel. Unfortunately, character development is limited, and some topics cry out for more nuance. For example, an encounter with the Seneca reveals that the protagonists view the Native Americans as "dangerous savages." Though the white protagonists' opinion is historically authentic, Pierpoint misses the opportunity to provide broader context for why some of the Seneca would side with the loyalists, and readers are left unaware of Washington's horrific reprisals. Similarly, the irony of repeated calls for freedom by slave-owning patriots is barely explored. VERDICT A purchase with kid appeal that should be balanced with offerings that provide broader perspectives.—Laura Simeon, Open Window School Library, WA
"The familiar events and historical figures surrounding the birth of the United States are made personal in this riveting story of one boy's unparalleled courage...Richly detailed and exhilarating. Kirkus, starred review" - Kirkus
"The fast pace combined with nonstop violence and unflinching descriptions of unsavory aspects of 18th-century medicine and combat will engage readers who may not normally choose historical fiction. Instructive end notes provide an extension to the novel.
" - School Library Journal
"The gruesomeness of war comes across vividly in this hard-hitting tale...A concluding background chapter will interest readers wanting more details of the war.
" - Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
Familiar and lesser known moments and scenes from history are chronicled: the HMS Jersey, Yorktown, even the soldier Peter Francisco all add depth and intrigue to the rather dry accounts of textbooks, and encourage you to read on. William and Rebecca are wonderful young protagonists, at 12 and 16 respectively, their determination and cleverness maneuvering through the pitfalls of war, double agents, danger and primitive living conditions intrigue and engage imagination.
No battle for hearts or minds is ever truly won on the field: belief and support from all levels of society need be involved and heard. While we rarely hear of the many unknown who supported the fight for independence, Pierpoint brings two young voices into the game, with motivations both possible and plausible, and show that historical fiction can be fun and educational.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The Secret Mission of William Tuck is an exhilarating coming of age tale for 4th-7th grade boys and girls and their parents.