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2022 Young Readers Summer Reading List
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Our education team has rounded up our favorite books on the American Revolution for young readers. This summer reading list represents the power of storytelling and its ability to open us up to new places, people, and perspectives. Books can be a conduit between the past and the present, and we hope that these will earn spots on your bookshelves!

The American Revolution for Kids by Janis Herbert
Best for ages 6-11 years old

Heroes, traitors, and great thinkers come to life in this activity book, and the concepts of freedom and democracy are celebrated in true accounts of the distinguished officers, wise delegates, rugged riflemen, and hardworking farm wives and children who created the new nation. This collection tells the story of the American Revolution, from the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party to the British surrender at Yorktown and the creation of the United States.

Why we love it: It combines detailed information about the American Revolution and hands-on learning opportunities for kids to do with friends and family or on their own. 

Excerpt: A lawsuit in Virginia became the talk of the colonies. It was about a parson and his tobacco, but it was also about whether England had the right to overrule local laws passed by the colonies.

Virginia’s clergymen were paid in tobacco, 17,000 pounds of it a year. During bad crop years, the price of tobacco was high, and the clergymen made a lot of extra money. Planters and Virginia’s colonial House of Burgesses thought it would be better if the clergymen were paid with money instead. The House of Burgesses passed a law to this effect.

Unhappy clergymen took this matter up with the British government, which struck down the Virginia law. When they still didn’t get their tobacco, one of them took the matter to court. The case, called the “Parson’s Cause,” became famous. So did Patrick Henry, the intense, red-headed lawyer opposing the parson. Henry stood in the Virginia courtroom and passionately argued that the British government could not cancel the colony’s law. The jury agreed and gave the parson only a penny for his trouble. A struggle for power between England and its colonies had begun. 

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell
Best for ages 7-11 years old
 

Told for the first time in picture book form is the true story of James Armistead Lafayette, an enslaved man who spied for George Washington's army during the American Revolution, and whose personal fight for freedom began with America's liberation.

Why we love it: This little-known story of an unsung hero displays the complexity and nuance of the Revolutionary War and decisions people from all walks of life and backgrounds had to make.

Excerpt: But America would not have won independence without the courage of thousands of people whose names never became famous.

Cornwallis saw one such man in Lafayette’s camp during his visit. He must have known in a flash exactly how Lafayette had defeated him.

The person Cornwallis saw was known by one name. But without him, the war might have ended very differently.

His name was James, and he was enslaved by a Virginia tobacco farmer named William Armistead. James heard that an enslaved man could be granted his freedom by fighting for the colonies. James was interested, and in 1781, Armistead allowed him to join Lafayette to help defeat the British.  

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I Survived the American Revolution by Lauren Tarshis
Best for ages 8-12 years old
 

British soldiers were everywhere. There was no escape. When disaster strikes, heroes are made. Nathaniel Fox never imagined he’d find himself in the middle of a battlefield, fighting for his life. He was only 11 years old! He’d barely paid attention to the troubles between America and England. How could he while being worked to the bone by his cruel uncle, Uriah Storch? But when his uncle’s rage forces him to flee the only home he knows, Nate is suddenly propelled toward a thrilling and dangerous journey into the heart of the Revolutionary War. He finds himself in New York City on the brink of what will be the biggest battle yet.

Why we love it: With a foundation of real historical facts and a compelling narrative, this historical fiction chapter book allows young readers to learn about the experiences of the Revolutionary War through the lens of someone their own age.

Excerpt: The sails were up. The ship was about to leave! There were only three men working on the small ship. They were too busy working to notice when he slipped on board. He scurried across the deck and hid himself between two big baskets of corn. A few minutes later sailors pushed the boat away from the dock. And with a whoosh of wind, Nate was on his way.

Eyewitness American Revolution by Stuart Murray
Best for ages 9-12 years old

Discover how the thirteen colonies challenged a mighty empire and won. From the Boston Massacre to the Treaty of Paris, follow in the footsteps of founders, witness major battles, and celebrate the birth of a new nation.

Why we love it: Packed with pictures and full of fun facts, this book is perfect for school projects and home learning.

Excerpt: Mary Ludwig Hays (1754-1832) was called “Molly Pitcher” at Monmouth, as she carried water to the soldiers. After her husband was wounded, she took his place. A cannonball flew between her knees and tore her skirt. She supposedly said, “Well, that could have been worse,” as she continued loading the cannon.

Answering the Cry for Freedom by Gretchen Woelfle
Best for ages 9-12 years old

“This engaging book provides a chance for young readers to learn about the death-defying attempts of black Americans to gain the inalienable rights promised in the Declaration of Independence. By stepping into the shoes of 13 men and women – stand-ins for the fifth of the population left out of most textbooks – readers can appreciate how the American Revolution rattled the chains of slavery and expanded the boundaries of freedom beyond the Founding Fathers’ intentions. This book belongs in the library of every elementary and middle school.” – Gary B. Nash 

Why we love it: This book doesn’t just focus on the dates and names from history but tells the stories of remarkable individuals with full and diverse lives and experiences. Through this lens, readers get to experience a more personal, empathetic, and impactful side of history.

Excerpt: On August 21, 1781, Mumbet faced her owner in the courtroom. If she won, she would be free. If she lost, her life could be harder than ever.

There is no record of what the lawyers said at her trial. But the jury, all white men, were convinced by Mumbet’s lawyers, and the judge ruled that Mumbet and Brom were free. Not only that, Colonel Ashley also was required to pay the two freed slaves thirty shillings for their long years of labor. Small though this amount was, it recognized people’s right to be paid for their work.

Before Mumbet’s case, other Massachusetts slaves had sued for their freedom. They had been promised freedom by owners who then broke that promise. Or they were beaten and took their masters to court for assault. But the Ashleys had made no promise of freedom, and Mumbet did not prosecute Mrs. Ashley for the beating she gave Mumbet. It was slavery itself that Mumbet challenged – and she won. 

Read the Revolution is sponsored by The Haverford Trust Company.

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Read the Revolution is published biweekly by the Museum of the American Revolution to inspire learning about the history of the American Revolution and its ongoing relevance.

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