Books by Shelley Ann Jackson

UPON SECRECY by Selene Castrovilla
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

"George Washington needed spies." In a fictionalized narrative that goes steeply downhill from this promising opening line, Castrovilla reconstructs in mannered language ("He dared not pray that these words cease fire") a true feat of Revolutionary War spy work: the transmission of vital intelligence about whether the British in New York knew about an arriving French fleet. Conveyed in stages by the Culper Spy Ring to General Washington, the message was written in transparent "sympathetic stain" by Quaker Robert Townsend and carried by messengers Austin Roe and Caleb Brewster—all historical figures. The painted pictures of these men and others—with, mostly, fixed expressions of anxiety—are stodgy but add bits of suspense, plus a sense of period. Citing years of research, the author adds 11 pages of backmatter—in which she neither quotes the original letter nor indicates whether or not it survives, devotes an entire page to "sympathetic stain" without mentioning its ingredients and closes with an adult-level bibliography. Young readers will find a clearer, more readable account of the Culper network in Thomas B. Allen's George Washington, Spymaster (2004). (Picture book. 8-10)Read full book review >