"Scar. A healed wound...Do the wounds of war ever heal, leaving only a scar where we once bled?" That's an excellent question, and it's one to keep in mind when we study history and look back at the conflicts of the past. In this well-written piece of historical fiction, Mann shows just one skirmish from the American Revolutionary War, but she makes it very real to readers. The story takes place over the course of four days in July 1779, near the settlement of Minisink (near present day Deerpark, NY). The events are seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Noah Daniels, who lives with his mother and sister on the farm his father carved out of the wilderness before dying in 1778. Now their home and others in the area are being attacked by Mohawk warriors allied with the British. Daniel sets off with the militia to find the attackers and is caught up in a terrible battle between the two forces.
One of the problems with studying early American history is that it is so distant, and the conditions are so different from today, that it is hard for students to identify with the figures they study. Daniel is easy for young people to identify with. He works hard to keep the farm going, knowing his father would want the family taken care of. But he also wants to fight with the colonists, and all his mother's excuses cannot override the patriotism his father instilled in him. There is also his acquaintance Eliza Little, who is the same age and visits with him during his daily walks. Her family moved to the area because her father thought it was safer with more of a militia presence, and they share the loss of a parent (his father, her mother). When the warriors following Joseph Brant enter the area, Daniel worries for the safety of Eliza and her family as well as his own. All of this is understandable - worrying about parental expectations, the importance of friendships and possible romance, yearning to be seen as an adult (or at least as capable) - these all make sense in any time period.
Another problem with covering historical conflicts in the classroom is that students often see the situations as very cut and dried, good guys versus bad guys. This story also shows that things are much more multi-dimensional than that simplistic view. Once the men from the settlement actually meet up with the enemy, Daniel has his idealistic notions of the encounter thoroughly ruined. And the aftermath of the battle will shake up readers as much as it does the protagonist.
Highly recommended for grades 4 - 7. Excellent for units on the American Revolution. The epilogue shares the historical facts that the story is based on, and the author also provides biographies for some of the more significant historical figures included in the story. The bibliography offers a list of all the print sources used by the author. The publisher also plans to offer an educator's guide for use with the book.
I received an advance galley from the publisher for review purposes.
* Update - 08/01/2016 We have added this title to the Fairview Library.