I’ve been trying to list our historical books by era. We’ve seen several explorers thus far, but now in our history studies we’re moving on to the late colonial period and lead up to the American Revolution. Of course the definitive book of the era would be James Fennimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans. That epic of the French and Indian War is too difficult for my son to read (but I will come back someday and share about my rescued copy with its N.C. Wyeth illustrations). Scouring through my home library, I did find a suitable substitute so this week’s rescued book is…
Widdemer, Margaret. William Sharp (Illus.) ; Philadelphia: Winston, 1952. 184 pp.
The book is one of the Winston Adventure Books and since this is the first time I’ve mentioned the series I’d like to share a few words about it. Few words because I can’t seem to find a lot of details other than what is included on the dust jacket. The 30-something books were published between 1952 – 1956, I have to believe this was the J.C. Winston Company’s response to the Landmark Book series begun by Random House in 1950. Trying to develop a niche to distinguish the series, the publisher has chosen to focus on "the little-known incidents and nearly forgotten lives of unsung heroes that helped shape history.” Maybe that’s why the series didn’t last very long—folks would rather read about Gen. George Washington than Swamp Fox Francis Marion. They prefer Generals Grant and Lee to Andrews’ Raiders hijacking a Confederate train. Since we’re covering the more famous folks and events in our history text, I don’t mind making my son read these highly engaging though less famous tales during his reading time.
Such is the case of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk living in upper New York. This was his Christian name given at his baptism and how is is usually referred to in the book (thank goodness because I would trip up every time I had to read over “Thayandenegea”). Brant’s step-father was the Sachem of the tribe and his sister had married British officer William Johnson who has just been named High Commissioner of Indian Affairs by the king. According to the dust jacket :
…this tale traces the train of desperate events…How young Brant unmasked French and Indian spies posing as friends of [Johnson]; how he helped rally Mohawk braves to the English cause; his part in that climatic battle [at lake George] that determined American destiny fire this book with intrigue, action, and thunderous frontier adventure!
I’ll confess we haven’t finished reading this book yet. Joseph is still running through the forests carrying belts to other Sachems and gathering forces. He’s overheard plots between a voice he recognizes and another man speaking English, but with a Dutch accent, they’ve received word that Gen. Braddock and his forces have been annihilated at Fort Duquesne—all except George Washington. Although the book’s subtitle led me to believe it would be about the battle at Lake George it is really about everything leading up to the battle. There isn’t much in the way of violence, although Brant does scalp a Huron and proudly displays his prize.
On the whole, it is really a coming of age story that happens to be set during a time of war. Joseph is trying to prove he’s a man from the opening chapter’s hunt, to being selected to be a belt carrier, to being a warrior proven in battle. That makes his character appealing to my also coming-of-age son. The fact that he’s also picking up some history in this “living book” is just gravy.
I rescued my copy of Prince in Buckskin from St. Johns High library – their loss. You can read about all my other rescued books here.