Every child dreams about being a hero, and following in the footsteps of heroic parents is probably near the top of the list. Ben, the son of New Hampshire farmers, gets to do both in this historically-based story set during the Revolutionary War. His adventures will stoke interest in America’s formative moments, using Aristotle’s method of delighting in order to teach.
This latest installment in the We Both Read Series features its trademark style of interactive narrative, in which emergent readers and more fluent partners alternate reading passages aloud. Each section is marked for difficulty, and less experienced readers will benefit from hearing more advanced vocabulary and sentence structures modeled aloud, motivating them to want to read the entire story on their own.
In 1776, Ben’s father, known for his expertise in following “Indian hunting trails,” is recruited to lead the famed Green Mountain Boys against the occupying British forces at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. This historic victory over a small defending force enables the Continental Army to bring badly needed supplies to General George Washington’s freezing soldiers, who were camped outside of British-occupied Philadelphia. However, it also endangers Ben’s family.
When British redcoats advance on their homestead the family is rescued by two Native American friends, Keeper and Spirit. The men escort them to Philadelphia, where Ben and his mother find employment with famed seamstress Betsy Ross. When George Washington arrives to commission the nation’s new flag, he brings news of Ben’s father’s heroism and tells Ben that a national flag will give his soldiers “the courage and strength to build a nation.” However, when British soldiers occupy Philadelphia just before Christmas, Ben himself volunteers to brave the wind and snow on a dangerous mission.
Johanna Westerman’s picturesque illustrations provide glimpses of the Northeastern countryside in the eighteenth century. Her version of Washington crossing the Delaware includes a frightened boy lashed by cold rain in “a storm so fierce that our boats barely made it across.” Children who recognize this famous voyage from their textbooks will easily place themselves in the boat alongside Ben.
Jana Carson has written several other books in the We Both Read Series, including About Space, Stop Teasing Taylor, and The Mighty Little Lion Hunter. This is her most advanced of these books, and young readers will treasure its suspenseful plot and the joy of practicing how to read well.