Washington at Valley Forge perfect partner for Anderson’s Forge

April 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

Washington at Valley Forge by Russell Freedman; published by Holiday House, New York; 2008.

Valley Forge marked a turning point for the rebels in the American Revolution.  Ragtag soldiers, most unprepared for harsh winter conditions, gathered at Valley Forge to prepare for new battles against the Redcoats.  In unbelievably cruel conditions, General George Washington stood shoulder to shoulder in the snow with his troops building shelters.  Why did Washington choose this place to spend the winter?  Where were the wagons, long overdue, bearing food, clothing and other supplies?  And how did the future first president of the United States of America keep morale strong and train this motley crew to win the war for freedom?  All these questions are answered in Russell Freedman’s Washington at Valley Forge.

I admit that I pulled this book off the library shelves shortly after finishing Laurie Halse Anderson’s Forge. So much of that story was new to me; how much literary license did the author take?  I also admit that it took me some time to actually open the cover of Washington at Valley Forge. After Anderson’s riveting tale, I wasn’t sure a nonfiction account would hold my interest.  With Russell Freedman behind the pen, I should not have worried.  I was drawn into the history immediately.  (Washington at Valley Forge was an Orbis Pictus honoree in 2009.)  I even discovered a few “aha!” moments, deeper explanations of Curzon’s experiences.  The maps were created with the assistance of an archivist from Valley Forge National Historic Park–talk about accuracy!–and really helped me picture Curzon’s movements in Forge.  The illustrations in Freedman’s book are reproductions of engravings, paintings, and magazine images.  Overall, the book provided history in words and images that made this turning point in the American Revolution real for me.

As a librarian, I am always thinking of how to pair fiction with nonfiction.  In the case of Forge and Washington at Valley Forge, synergy occurs; the two books offer a view of Valley Forge from different perspectives that work beautifully together to create a 360 degree view.  I believe these two books should be read together.  I also want to make clear that Washington at Valley Forge is not a picture book for preschoolers or even early elementary aged children; this book is for upper elementary students at the youngest, and most definitely for middle school students.


Entry filed under: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-fiction, Non-fiction or Informational, Starred Review Book (Horn Book, Booklist. School Library Journal, Kirkus or PW). Tags: , , , , , .

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