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BY THE SWORD by Selene Castrovilla

BY THE SWORD

By Selene Castrovilla (Author) , Bill Farnsworth (Illustrator)

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 2007
ISBN: 1-59078-427-8
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

In this fictionalized episode from the Battle of Long Island, 22-year-old Lieutenant Benjamin Tallmadge wrestles belatedly with the reality of killing and the possibility of being killed on the battlefield. Then, during Washington’s retreat, he risks his life by going back to rescue his beloved horse from the Hessians. To judge from the heavy dose of appended historical information, resource lists, personal statements and other backmatter, both author and illustrator engaged in meticulous research, but it’s not much in evidence in the finished product. Farnsworth lays on (documented, to be sure) heavy rain, smoke and fog to create impressionistic scenes of battle and general misery, while Castrovilla leans more on melodrama than details that modern readers would be able to supply or infer. She also provides only tantalizing references to Tallmadge’s distinguished later career. In addition, the old map reprinted on the endpapers is both hard to read and partially covered by the jacket flaps. This young officer’s crisis of conscience makes a worthy theme to explore, but young students will gain more insight into the soldiers’ war from such conventional nonfiction as Richard Ammon’s Valley Forge (2004). (Nonfiction. 7-9)