proseandkahn (proseandkahn) wrote,

Summer Reading Day 12: Non-Fiction Monday: Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot by Anita Silvey

Illustrated by Wendell MInor.  40 p. Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2010. ISBN: 978-0-618-27485-7.

This informative picture book biography packs a punch in sixteen short chapters. In Chapter one, the reader learns that Henry Knox was born in 1750, was the seventh of ten sons and got a job in a book store at age nine to help support his family after his father left them. He was able to read to his heart's content on his off hours and especially enjoyed the military history books. He joined the local militia and learned how to shoot a cannon. At the age of twenty, he was present at the Boston Massacre and at twenty-one opened the London Book Store in Boston, which catered to both Colonists and Loyalists. 

After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, he packed up his belongings, found a safe home for his wife away from Boston, and began supervising the building of fortification outside the city of Boston. Shortly after George Washington became Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, he arrived in Boston, inspected the fortifications and praised Knox's work. In November, Knox was appointed to head the artillery. Noting that there was very little, Knox proposed a plan to secure artillery from Fort Ticonderoga for use in the Boston fortifications. Winter was coming on and Fort Ticonderoga was 300 miles away. There were mountains in the way. 

The next six chapters describe the grueling journey. On March 4, 1776, the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, the British troops awakened to discover cannons pointing at them from the hills. They raised a flag of truce and evacuated. In mid March, Washington rode into Boston and Knox returned to his bookstore to find it destroyed. But he had a war to win.

The paintings, done with acrylic on gessoed wood panel, are gorgeous - colorful, textured, energetic, and inspiring. The series of mostly double-page spreads depicting the 300 mile journey across frozen lakes and over mountains convey the brutal conditions and hammer home to 21st century readers just how heroic a feat this was. 

The gorgeous end-pages feature a faded out map of Henry Knox's route from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, with thumbnails of the eight paintings bordering the map. There's a "Henry Knox Chronology" at the end of the book and source notes, which, curiously document only pages twenty-two through thirty-six. A quick check of Henry Knox online returned multiple sites that place Henry leaving school to support the family at age twelve, rather than the more dramatic age of nine. Still, the book is an important addition to any school or public library.
Tags: 100+ book challenge, american revolution, biography, informational, non-fiction monday, picture books
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