Revolutionary Friends – Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Revolutionary FriendsRevolutionary Friends; General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette by Selene Castrovilla; illustrated by Drazen Kozjan; Calkins Creek, 2013.  40 pages; $16.95 (hardcover); reading level:  ages 7-12.

The story of the reserved George Washington’s initially reluctant friendship with the young French officer whose heart “enlisted” in the American struggle for independence from Britain, is told in a spare, sprightly narrative interspersed with French words and phrases (C’est le moment!  Magnifique!).  The storyline focuses narrowly on the year 1777 beginning with the events leading up to the first meeting of the two and ending (somewhat abruptly) with Washington’s visit to Lafayette at the house where he was recovering from a wound suffered at the Battle of Brandywine.  But the wider historical picture is there as well:  Sidebar “scrolls” contain quotes from Lafayette’s documents and the backmatter, a treasure trove for teachers, includes the continuation of their relationship until the death of Washington, timelines, places to visit, a bibliography, a glossary of French phrases used in the text, and reproductions of two portraits currently hanging in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The color-on-pen-and-ink illustrations, many of them sweeping two-page spreads, capture both the human warmth and the dramatic historical sweep of the story.  This book is lively enough to be simply read aloud and sturdy enough to be used as the basis for a U.S. history unit.

Revolutionary Friends was recently purchased at The Blue Marble Children’s Bookstore by Connie