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By the Sword Hardcover – April 1, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—In 1776, Benjamin Tallmadge, a school headmaster, felt called to leave his position and join George Washington's army, defending the freedom of the fledgling American nation. Making informed use of primary-source material, including Tallmadge's memoirs, this fictionalized accounting follows the young man who would go on to have a distinguished career as one of Washington's trusted officers and spies, through the Battle of Long Island. The visceral narrative captures Tallmadge's involvement in that battle, from his first shot at a fellow human being to his return to the battlefield to retrieve his horse, and also limns the emotional state of an untried soldier as he begins to square his beliefs with the reality of their cost. Farnsworth's oil on linen canvas illustrations are likewise thoroughly researched and do a sound job of depicting conditions and the times. The slightly impressionistic feel and realistic use of color do much to enhance a sense of the confusion of battle. A wonderful accompaniment to Scott Ingram's more global and entirely factual approach in The Battle of Long Island (Gale, 2003), this is an excellent introduction to the use of primary-source material to create a plausible historical narrative that also adds a human face. A time line of Tallmadge's life, a list of places to visit, research notes, and an excellent print bibliography are included.—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Culled from extensive historical sources, Castrovilla's picture book for older children tells the story of Benjamin Tallmadge, a schoolteacher. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Benjamin brings his faithful horse with him to Brooklyn to enlist in General Washington's army, just as British troops ready their attack upon the vastly outnumbered patriots. Once the action starts, Castrovilla does an admirable job of portraying the tension and dread an unweathered soldier would feel in the face of battle without resorting to the grisly details. After the Americans are forced to retreat across a river to safety, Benjamin realizes he has left his beloved horse behind and risks everything to save it. Farnsworth's oil-on-canvas paintings, which have an aged, worn look, mix the muted browns of battlefield muck with the diffused grays of early morning fog to heighten the action of flint striking gunpowder and cannonballs raining from the sky. A time line, map, and source notes provide plenty of additional learning opportunities to place the story within the history. Ian Chipman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The Battle of Long Island unfolds with breathtaking intimacy. We are close to the man and his horse as they weather a British assault, the lack of sleep, poor food, drenching rains, contradictory orders, and their own fears, in order to help save Washington's army from annihilation. Selene Castrovilla's prose evokes the anxiety of war with painterly details, but without drenching young readers in the carnage.
When Benjamin, in the heat of retreat, forgets Highlander, he receives permission to go back, by boat, to retrieve him. So this story is also about a brave young man who risks his life to save his beloved horse. As cannonballs from the fierce, advancing Hessians (mercenaries on the British side) narrowly miss Benjamin's retreating boat with Highlander safe on board, readers of all ages will be cheering.
Bill Farnsworth's expressive oil paintings on canvas enhance the text, from the flash of musket fire to the thick blanket of fog that kept the British fleet idling long enough for Washington's army to escape. Detailed endpaper maps enable readers to follow the troops. The author's research notes, timeline, suggested places to visit, and detailed bibliography of sources makes this an absolute must-have book for all teachers and students of history, for anyone interested in the birth of the United States of America. .
Three cheers for shedding a little light on this strategically important -- and beautiful! -- place in the American northeast.
I hope you enjoy my book, in which I aim to add a human face to history.