Books by Richard Ammon

VALLEY FORGE by Richard Ammon
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

Noting that the Continental Army's winter at Valley Forge has become "a saga wrapped in myth and legend," Ammon uses a mix of primary and secondary sources to separate fact from fiction. In topical passages, between accounts of Washington's appointment as commander-in-chief and the army's June 1778 march to the battle of Monmouth, the author chronicles Washington's effective style of leadership, introduces Lafayette and Von Steuben, and describes how the ragged, ill-supplied troops survived disease, privation, and dreadful weather to emerge as a cohesive, trained fighting force. He includes a snatch of song, highlights the soldiers' ethnic and cultural diversity, and even mentions camp followers. But the value of his account is not enhanced by the illustrations; instead of period images, modern views of the site, or even a map or two, Farnsworth's full-page paintings offer generic, idealized, heroically posed figures, usually in static compositions, that provide more of a patriotic backdrop than a sense of time or place. This could supplement, but not replace, Richard Conrad Stein's Valley Forge (1985), or Libby Hughes's more detailed Valley Forge (1998). (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2000

In a tribute to "the tractor-trailers of their time," the author describes in loving detail the history and value of the uniquely designed Conestoga wagon. From 1750 to 1850, the Conestoga was king, and sometimes as many as 3,000 wagons a day traveled between Philadelphia and Lancaster as well as west to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. They carried as much as five tons of cargo: loads of bacon, butter, cider, flour, rope, tools, mail, coal, and more from port cities to settlements throughout Pennsylvania along what would become the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Ammon (An Amish Year, 1999, etc.) explains in detail how the wagon was built by hand, including shaping the wooden body, waterproofing the linen cover with linseed oil or beeswax, forging the iron rim to the wooden wheel of 14 or 16 spokes, attaching the end gate, and setting the hitch for easy hauling of heavy loads. Readers will learn how advanced this wagon was; for instance, it was the only one to have brakes. Several contemporary expressions derive from those wagon days: "Mind your P's and Q's," "I'll be there with bells on," and "teamster." While the text is rich in detail, the paintings by the illustrator of Robert Fulton: From Submarine to Steamboat (1999) provide a dreamy contrast. In muted sepia and gold, or muted blues and grays, they hint of times past, but occasionally miss some of the clear details the viewer longs for, given the superbly precise text. Still this is a strikingly well-done essay on a slice of Americana seldom told and well worth exploring. (Nonfiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
AN AMISH YEAR by Richard Ammon
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

Readers follow a fourth grade Amish girl named Anna through the four seasons in a gentle tale from Ammon (An Amish Christmas, 1996, not reviewed). Perhaps in the spirit of Amish culture, the book does not engage reader through flashy illustrations or a kitschy plot. Instead, it offers a sense of serene assurance that arises from this community that is attempting to live according to its set of beliefs. Anna's life, as with all Amish, revolves around the seasons, home, and farm. Hard work, milking the cows, tending the vegetable garden, and school take up most of her time, but that does not preclude fun; there is a time and place for everything in her life, including play when the work is done. Like the "English" (non-Amish), Anna and her friends enjoy softball, volleyball, flying kites, sledding, etc. Ammon makes Anna approachable, subtly revealing the similarities between her life and readers' while illuminating the fundamentals of Amish culture. The well-researched, luminous illustrations resonate with the beauty of this life and are an integral part of the book. For a hurly-burly society, the notion of families gathering and caring for one another in an extended network of aunts, uncles, and cousins is inviting and accessible. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >