Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Phillis Wheatley: Young Revolutionary Poet

Phillis Wheatley: Young Revolutionary Poet

Kathryn Kilby Borland, Helen Ross Speicher
Illustrator:  Cathy Morrison 
For ages 8 to 12
Patria Press, 2005   ISBN: 978-1882859474

She was just eight years old when she was brought as a slave to Boston from Africa. Luckily she as bought by Susannah Wheatley, a woman who took pity on the little half starved child and who wanted more than anything to save the pathetic little girl whom she saw shivering and coughing one morning in the slave market.

With care and kindness the Wheatley family tended the little girl in mind and body. They fed and clothed her, never giving her too much work to do. They taught her how to speak English and later they taught her how to read and write. Indeed the girl whom they had named Phillis proved to be a very apt pupil who loved to learn. Whatever Mary, the daughter of the house was taught, Phillis also learned. Phillis read every book she could get her hands on and her love of words blossomed.

Meanwhile the situation in the colonies declined rapidly. The colonists were no longer willing to accept being ruled by a British King if he would not allow them some control over their future. When the crown levied unjust taxes on the Americans, riots broke out. Mr. Wheatley’s son was a member of the Son’s of Liberty and they were all afraid for his safety. As cannon fire boomed in the streets, Phillis sat and wrote poems by candle light. When the Wheatley’s read her poems they were astonished to find that one of their own was so skilled and gifted. Soon people all over Boston were talking about the young lady whose words had so much power and King George himself received one of Phillis’ poems, as did George Washington.

Phillis Wheatley would become the first African American to have a book published. She traveled to England where she almost had an audience with the king had she not been summoned back to America for a family emergency. Her achievements were truly extraordinary and this book provides young readers with a fascinating picture of her life and her times. Well written, engaging, and filled with interesting details about the revolutionary period, this is one of the titles in the “Young Patriots” series.