Key events of the American Revolution are celebrated by one of our nation’s preeminent historical painters.
The Revolutionary War 1775-1783 (See American History Series) by Mort Kunstler, text by Alan Axelrod. Abbeville Press, 2016, 45 pages including appendix.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 5-12
Mort Kunstler is perhaps best known for his Civil War paintings, which fill several volumes. For the See America series he turns his considerable artistic talent to picturing great events in American History for children (a companion volume about the Civil War was also published this year). The text reads more like expanded captions for the pictures than a unified narrative of the period, beginning with the Boston Massacre and ending with Washington’s Homecoming. Forty pages can only hit the highlights; important events like Arnold’s treason, Franklin’s diplomacy, and the southern campaigns are omitted, but a two-page summary at the beginning and a timeline at the end fill some of the gaps.
The text sometimes reads like it’s addressed to five-year-olds, e.g., In this painting on the left, the night appears very cold, but the house looks so warm! However, the friendly, conversational tone will probably draw more young readers or listeners than it repels. The refreshing lack of PC flags is also a plus—we don’t have to be reminded, for instance, that George Washington owned slaves. In fact, the narrative tends to overstatement at times: Friedrich von Steuben’s Valley Forge drills didn’t quite shape the Continental Army into a match for “the best armies of Europe,” and British historians would be shocked to learn that “Because Captain [John Paul] Jones never gave up, Britain no longer ruled the world’s oceans!” So would Napoleon, for that matter. But the detailed, atmospheric paintings will provide hours of browsing as young readers relive one of history’s great stories.
Overall rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Categories: Middle grades, Early Reader, Nonfiction, American History
cover image from Barnes & Noble