Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Liberty or Death: A Story about Patrick Henry

Liberty or Death: A Story about Patrick Henry

Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
Illustrator:   Nicolas Debon 
For ages 8 to 11
Lerner Publishing Group, 2003   ISBN: 978-1575051789

Patrick Henry had not always planned on becoming a lawyer. For some years he struggled to make a living as a farmer. His father had not been able to afford to send Henry to college which would have, no doubt, led to a professional life of some sort. Instead Henry had to make a living and, for a while, he muddled along as best he could. In addition to his rather unsuccessful farming endeavors Patrick worked in his father-in-law's tavern. Here he often heard lawyers discussing their court cases. Their talk intrigued Patrick and he eventually decided to pursue a career as a lawyer. Not having the means to go to England to study the law, Patrick studied from books and, in spite of his obvious lack of experience, the examiners in Williamsburg passed him in the law exams.

After one particularly important case which Patrick did not win but which he handled with great skill, Patrick's career took off and he was able to build a home of his own to house his growing family. Patrick decided to become a member of the local Virginian House of Burgesses. By giving rousing speeches which sometimes shocked his fellow representatives, Patrick was able to convince many of them that the situation with Britain that existed at that time was not an acceptable one and changes needed to be made. He was tired of seeing the British crown dictate to the colonies. He was tired of their taxes and their laws. And, in time, Patrick was able to greatly influence the future of the colonies with his stirring words.

This well written biography will give young readers an excellent picture of what it would have been like to observe Patrick Henry in action. In addition to giving an account of Patrick Henry's life the author also gives her readers a sense of what it would have been like to live in America in the years leading up to and during the American Revolutionary War. They will see how turbulent things were in America, and how the colonies took some time before they began to work together to help one another and to overcome King George's efforts to subdue them.