Title: Henry Knox, Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot
Author: Anita Silvey
Paintings by: Wendell Minor
Publisher: Clarion Books, 2010
Themes: revolutionary war, patriotism, Henry Knox, biography, problem-solving
40 pages/ 16 chapters
When other boys walked, Henry Knox bounced. Where others saw problems, he found possibilities.
In 1750 Henry was born into a working class Boston family, the seventh of ten sons. His father, a ship captain, carried on trade with the West Indies. But then William Knox failed in business, and left his family. At the age of nine Henry quit his studies so that he could help support his mother and siblings.
A hearty eater, dapper dresser, bookseller to Loyalists and Patriots alike, and married into a staunch Loyalist family, Henry Knox may seem an unlikely hero. But his fascination with warfare and strategy and his support of the Patriot cause prepared him to do what no one else thought was possible: transport heavy artillery from Fort Ticonderoga, up and down snow-covered hills and across frozen lakes, to relieve the siege of Boston. The dramatic story of his achievements is all the more satisfying for being absolutely true, a little-known episode in the history of the American Revolution. (goodreads)
Why I like this book:
For those studying the American Revolution, especially lesser known heroes, or great problem-solvers, this book will be a great addition to these topics. With my minimal but growing knowledge of this time in American history, Knox was an unfamiliar name to me, but what a story. Anita depicts him as one of General Washington’s greatest aides in the war effort. The problem he found a solution to was that the army had little artillery, and Boston could not be taken without a great barrage of fire power.
This story starts with Henry’s very lowly beginning, quitting school at age 9 to help his family because his father abandoned them. He became a bookseller’s assistant, then later a bookseller. Eventually having to flee Boston with his family, he became a soldier, and the rest of this story is his key role in the revolutionary war. Anita Silvey enables the reader to understand the complexity of the problems Washington and his troops faced. And the persistence needed to troubleshoot. Henry Knox just never gave up, and hundreds of pounds of artillery were hauled by men and oxen in boats across Lake Champlain, on sleds across frozen terrain, and through mountain passes with no roads. It’s a gripping story of perseverance that will spark further research about this amazing man and feat.
Wendell’s beautiful illustrations help tell the tale too with color and terrific historical detail that draw you back to this period.
This was a gift, but I think I am going to donate it to our middle school library, as while a picture book, the details and use of chapters still make it a great research book for my younger middle graders. And the vocabulary will stretch them.
There is a good timeline, suggestions for further research, a map and further pictures in the end papers.
It could be paired with Don Brown’s picture book, Henry and the Cannons.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.