The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes

This jokey introduction to the American Revolution, latest in the “Thrifty Guide” series, presents accurate history along with the laughs.  Ages 10-15

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella.  Viking, 2018, 137 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-15

Suppose you’re walking along a sidewalk in Manhattan, minding your own business, when you happen to notice a book wedged under a drainpipe.  Never one to pass up a book, you pick it up and discover that it’s a travel guide from . . . 2164!  Some hapless time-traveler must have ended up in the wrong century, because this is a guide (in antiquated English type, with pages and all) to the American Revolution.  It’s published by Time Corp, a future conglomerate headed by Finn Greenquill, who appears to be something of a megalomaniac (so we still have those in the 22nd century).

Tips follow: how to dress, how to load a musket, how to travel incognito (you’ll need a mechanical carriage with cloaking device, not included in the basic package), what battles to avoid, and who you might want to set up a lunch date with.  Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Alexander Hamilton make that list, as well as lesser-knowns like John Greenwood.  That is, if you can avoid getting shot or taken prisoner.  The humor is actually of a higher caliber than in many wise-cracking children’s books of this type, and if the reader pays attention she will end up with a pretty good outline of what happened during those six years that birthed America.  (Bonus points to the author for including the Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina, which was small but pivotal.)

I guess the Revolution seems far enough away that we can make jokes about it.  There’s some good material: amazing British incompetence, Washington’s wooden teeth, flashy uniforms, goofy wigs, and all that.  I doubt there will be a Thrifty Guide to World War I or II, and even the Civil War seems too close to home.  Young readers should understand that the Revolution was as brutal and bloody as the Civil War, but on a much smaller scale and with a much happier outcome.  Still, the David-and-Goliath odds against its success are appropriately noted here.  Franklin and others gave full credit to Providence, even if the Thrifty Guide does not.

For those anxious to try another era, the Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome is now available, with Greece and the Middle Ages still to come.  Thank Finn Greenquill!

Cautions: None

Overall rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 3.5


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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Carl Schwanke on March 23, 2018 at 11:36 am

    This sounds really good. And congrats on knowing about Cowpens! I live in Charlotte, NC, about 50 miles from Cowpens. 10 more points to you if you know about the Battle of King’s Mountain.

    • Janie on March 23, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      I do indeed–Major Patrick Ferguson, overrun and killed by the “Over Mountain Men” from the frontier. He was the only foreigner in that battle: everyone else, on both sides was American. (Fifteen years ago I wrote a novel about these events, novel never published but I’m currently rewriting it!)

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