Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Winter at Valley Forge

Winter at Valley Forge

Matt Doeden
Illustrator:  Charles Barnett III , Ron Frenz 
Nonfiction graphic novel
For ages 8 to 10
Capstone Press, 2006   ISBN: 978-0736862127

Most countries go through at least one period of upheaval, when the people decide that they are not happy with their leaders and demand change. In the United States the first time this happened was in the late 1700’s. The American colonists decided that they were tired of the laws, taxes, and control that the British were forcing on them, and they decided that the time for standing by was over; it was time to take a stand, and this is what they did.

Groups of colonial rebels ended up taking up arms and fighting against British soldiers, which led to battles breaking out in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Several months later colonial leaders chose George Washington to lead the colonial armies, and what came to be called the Revolutionary War began in earnest.

From the very beginning General George Washington was faced with many challenges. Most of his soldiers were farmers, merchants, and laborers who had not received any proper military training. They also lack supplies off all kinds. Trying to fight a war when you don’t have bullets for your guns, guns to shoot, boots on your feet, and food in your belly is hard for even the most seasoned of soldiers.

The situation for Washington’s army only got worse in the winter of 1777 when the British were advancing on Philadelphia - the nation’s capital at that time. The army had to retreat across the Pennsylvania countryside. General Washington decided to set up a winter camp at Valley Forge, and there the soldiers took refuge, as best they could, from snow storms and freezing temperatures. The general wrote to Congress begging them to send supplies to his starving and ill-clothed men. His pleas went unanswered.

The men managed to build log cabins for themselves, but the conditions were still so bad that many of the soldiers deserted. If matters did not improve, by the spring General Washington wouldn’t have any soldiers to command and the war would be lost.

Bringing history to life for young readers is not easy, but this is what the creators of this book have done. Using a graphic novel format, the author and illustrator tell the story of a crucial time in the history of the United States, helping children to appreciate what it must have been like to be in George Washington’s army in the winter of 1777-1778.

This is one of the titles in a large series that offers young readers stories from history that are presented in a graphic-rich format.