Kirkus Star


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In his last book Tunis handles the site of Washington's crossing with the same loving precision and inspired authority that distinguished his previous beautifully produced and illustrated recreations of early American life. ""Can ye get me across?"" yelled yet another stranger in 1687, prompting Henry Baker, a prosperous Quaker farmer, to build a sort of catamaran (later replaced by a scow), and because the travelers often had to be put up, the simple farmhouse was gradually converted to an ordinary and later expanded to a tavern with lodgings, the family moving into more stately quarters nearby. Tunis recalls the textures of domestic and public life in fascinating detail, even to the iron spit for roasting meat which ten year-old Samuel Baker had to crank by hand, and the turnspit dogs employed later in taverns to walk a treadmill belted to the spit; in his background digressions (the course of the Revolutionary War up to the crossing is summarized at some length) historical byways are explored in the same spirit: there is the cheating of the Lenni Lenape by William Penn's sons, who stretched a previously agreed upon border extension (""as far up the Delaware as a man could walk in a day and a half"") by sending three athletes off at a furious pace (the only one of the three who pressed on for the required time span died the next day), and the escapades of Moses Doan, a Baker neighbor and Tory spy, whose warning note -- ""Washington is coming on you down the river. He will be here afore long"" -- was pocketed unopened by a celebrating British colonel in Trenton. Tunis' pencil and wash drawings are handsome and meticulously faithful as always, and his chapter-heading tavern signs (the names ali authentic, the symbols original) are a typically felicitous extra.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1973
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell