Children’s and Young Adult Literature for Teaching Different Perspectives on the American Revolution
Dr. Ava L. McCall
● Children’s and Young Adult Books
● Children’s Periodicals
● Adult Resources: Books
Children’s and Young Adult Books
Adler, J. W. (Ed.). (1998). In the path of war: Children of the American Revolution tell their stories. Peterborough, NH: Cobblestone.
Middle school level/adult resource. The sources for the text originated from Dr. Asa Fitch, a country doctor from northeastern New York, who recorded people’s memories of the American Revolution. Beginning in 1847, Dr. Fitch carefully recorded each person’s story as it was told to him, which provides children’s perspectives of the American Revolution. The editor of the text organized the stories chronologically and thematically, commencing with immigrants leaving their homeland and settling in the New York area, the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the conflicts between the Tories (who were loyal to the British) and Whigs (patriots or advocates of independence) after the war, and everyday life and relationships with Native people, especially the Stockbridge, following the war. Chapters also describe major battles and how they affected ordinary people in the area, how Whig and Tory families tried to protect their homes and possessions and coped with murders, theft of their animals, and destruction of their homes.
Amstel, M. (2000). Sybil Ludington’s midnight ride. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.
Picture book, elementary level. In the “author’s note” and “afterword,” the author compares the differences between Paul Revere’s and Sybil Ludington’s ride during the American Revolution. Sybil’s ride took place later in the war (1777), but was just as important in readying colonial troops to resist a British attack. Sybil’s father was a commander of troops, but he and his soldiers were all at their homes when the British attacked nearby Danbury, Connecticut. Sybil was the only person who could ride her horse and call all the soldiers to gather at Colonel Ludington’s home to prepare for battle. The text contains a map of Sybil’s journey and a sketch of a statue dedicated to her in Carmel, New York.
Benchley, N. (1969). Sam the minuteman. New York: Scholastic.
Picture book, lower elementary level. The simple text portrays a patriot view of the American Revolution as narrated by a young boy named Sam Brown who lived with his parents on a farm in Lexington, Massachusetts. According to Sam and his parents, everyone was against the presence of British soldiers in Boston. When Sam’s father, a Minuteman, was called to help stop the British soldiers from marching from Boston to Concord, Sam also went. The Minutemen were greatly outnumbered by the British soldiers and tried to retreat, but someone began shooting and eight Minutemen were killed. Sam’s young friend John was shot. When the British soldiers returned, the Minutemen fired at the soldiers from behind trees and rocks, which was more effective than shooting openly. Following the battle, the British troops returned to Boston.
Brown, D. P. (1985). Sybil rides for independence. Niles, IL: Albert Whitman.
Picture book, elementary level. The author portrays Sybil as a young woman who was more interested in riding her horse and serving as a soldier for the colonies than doing traditional women’s chores. However, this motivation is speculation. The text provides a description of the known facts of Sybil Ludington’s ride to gather her father’s troops to defend the area and prevent the British from doing more damage and taking territory. The author describes General Washington’s visit with Sybil to thank her for her assistance with defending the colonies. The additional information at the end of the text clarifies which aspects of the text are fiction and which are factual.
Davis, B. (1976). Black heroes of the American Revolution. San Diego: Odyssey.
Upper elementary/middle school level. The author calls attention to male African Americans who served on the patriot side during the seven-year American Revolution. Their contributions are often unknown because they left no records of their experiences since most were slaves and could neither read nor write. The text provides brief portrayals of African American men who fought as soldiers and sailors or served as spies. It also describes three Black regiments, one from Rhode Island, another from Boston, and a third from Haiti. More indepth portrayals are given of James Forten, a war prisoner who later became an abolitionist and one of Philadelphia’s wealthiest men and Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the American Revolution who died during the Boston Massacre. Most African American slaves volunteered to serve without the promise of gaining freedom; however, thousands became free because of their military service.
Gleiter, J. & Thompson, K. (1985). Molly Pitcher. Nashville, TN: Ideals Publishing.
Picture book, elementary. The text introduces the contributions of Molly Hays who accompanied her husband from camp to camp as he fought in the American Revolution. Molly used a pitcher to carry water to fighting men during hot weather, which led to the name Molly Pitcher. When her husband was overcome by the heat during battle, Molly took his place at a cannon. The book celebrates the courage of the young woman who became known as Molly Pitcher and her contributions to the American Revolution.
Hoose, P. (2001). We were there, too! Young people in U.S. history. New York: Melanie Kroupa Books.
Upper elementary, middle school level, and adult resource. Nearly half the stories portray young female contributions to U.S. history. The first section deals with the encounter of Europeans and Native Americans and includes the activities of Taino girls and boys. In the second section, “Strangers in Paradise: The British Colonies” readers consider the stories of Pocahontas, Salem girls considered “witches,” a young girl captured by the Mohawks, a female indigo planter, and Phillis Wheatley, poet. Within the section on the American Revolution are stories about girls who spun their own cloth rather than use English imports, young female spies, and the contributions of Sybil Ludington and Deborah Sampson during the war.
Lasky, K. (2003). A voice of her own: The story of Phillis Wheatley, slave poet. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Upper elementary level. The text is a biography of Phillis Wheatley and details Phillis’s memories of her mother in west Africa and her sale to a wealthy couple living in Boston, Susannah and John Wheatley. When Susannah Wheatley noticed Phillis’s intelligence, she decided to teach her to read and write even though northern slaves were not usually literate. Phillis learned quickly and mastered many subjects. At the age of 14, her first poem was published and Susannah took Phillis to people’s homes to read her poems. Phillis wrote poems about freedom and events leading up to the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre. Phillis’s first book of poetry was published in 1774, the first book every written by an African American woman. After writing a poem and sending it to George Washington, they met in 1776. Her last poem celebrated the end of the American Revolution.
McGovern, A. (1975). The secret soldier: The story of Deborah Sampson. New York: Scholastic.
Upper elementary/middle school level. The text clarifies the limited options for women during the revolutionary era. Women usually had little or no education in the academic subjects, were expected to marry young and raise a large family, and could not own property or make decisions about what happened to their children. Deborah Sampson came from a poor family whose mother could not afford to raise all her children. Deborah was sent from her home and worked for 10 years for a family in exchange for a place to live. Once she was free, she decided to become a soldier rather than accept women’s traditional role. Deborah disguised herself as a male and became a continental soldier, Robert Shurtliff. She discovered war was not the adventure she expected. Deborah saw the injuries and death from battle and was wounded herself. After nearly dying from a fever, her female identity was discovered and Deborah received an honorable discharge from the army. She served for one and one-half years. Later, she married a farmer and raised a family, but also traveled to different cities and gave talks about her experiences as a soldier. Deborah Sampson was one of the first women to travel alone and earn money from public speaking.
Myers, W. D. (1991). Now is your time! The African-American struggle for freedom. New York: HarperTrophy.
Middle school level and adult resource. The author intersperses general descriptions of historical eras with stories of individuals. He begins with a brief review of the beginning of the slave trade as European Americans recognized the need for cheap labor in the Americas. The author includes a story of one African brought to the U.S. as a slave, kept in slavery for 40 years, then was able to return to Africa. The development of the plantation society is described which necessitated a large labor force to raise one main crop for income and complete other work needed for life on a large estate. One chapter describes the inhumane strategies slave owners used to exercise complete control over slaves and make them dependent on their “masters,” as well as slave resistance to slavery. The author also explores the contradictions in the ideals of the American Revolution and slavery, provides a profile of one free Black (James Forten) living during the Revolutionary era, the place of slavery in the Constitution, different slave rebellions, and the struggle of one couple to escape from slavery. As a way to understand the Civil War, the author describes laws regarding slavery, the growing abolitionist movement, the secession of southern states from the Union, and significant activities of the Civil War itself. Following the Civil War, African Americans still had to struggle for survival and move toward greater equality. Court cases and the accomplishments of African American individuals bring readers up to the final chapter, which focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the modern Civil Rights Movement.
O’Dell, S. (1980). Sarah Bishop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Upper elementary/middle school level. This historical fiction takes place in New York during the time of the American Revolution. The main character, 15-year-old Sarah Bishop, experiences two disparate points of view on the American Revolution through her father who is a Loyalist and her brother who joins the patriot militia. Unfortunately, both Sarah’s father and her brother die for their views. Sarah’s father is tarred and feathered for his unpopular position and her brother dies on a British prison ship. Because Sarah is accused by the British of starting a fire and the British control much of New York, she must hide from British soldiers and eventually decides to live in the wilderness. The majority of the text describes Sarah’s efforts to survive in a cave, protect herself with a musket, and fish, gather, and store food with some assistance from a Native couple, Helen and John Longknife. Sarah’s unusual lifestyle and friendship with a white bat and an injured muskrat seem to lead to accusations that she is a witch. The text can be used to discuss lifestyles and women’s roles during the Revolutionary War as well as different perspectives on the war.
Rappaport, D. (1988). The Boston coffee party. New York: Harper & Row.
Picture book, lower elementary. This simple text is historical fiction. The story is fictional, but it is based on an incident in which colonial women forcefully took a Boston merchant’s coffee supply hidden in his warehouse. They spoiled his plan to hoard coffee, one of the British products in short supply, until no other merchant had it, then sell his own stock at exorbitant prices. It illustrates an action women took to protest the merchant’s focus on self-gain rather than support for the colonists’ boycott of British products, including coffee. The text also portrays women sewing shirts for the colonial soldiers as one of their contributions to the patriot cause.
Redmond, S. R. (2004). Patriots in petticoats: Heroines of the American Revolution. New York: Random House.
Upper elementary and middle school level. The author briefly profiles 24 women who fought in different ways for freedom during the American Revolution. She includes women writers, such as Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, and Mary Katharine Goddard, who wrote letters or poems or published a newspaper publishing the Declaration of Independence. Redmond describes women who supported the patriot cause through sewing, nursing, defending their homes, serving as spies and messengers, and warning soldiers of dangers, such as Dicey Langston and Sybil Ludington. Women who served in the American Revolution are also portrayed, including Deborah Sampson, Margaret Cochran Corbin, and Mary Hays. The text lists the states where each woman lived and a timeline for the women’s activities.
Rockwell, A. (2002). They called her Molly Pitcher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Picture book, elementary level. In the author’s note, readers discover the integration of facts about Mary Hays McCauly (also known as Molly Pitcher) and the legend of Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth. The text and detailed illustrations portray how Molly Pitcher, like many women who followed male relatives to Valley Forge, continued to trail her husband William Hays to the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. During the battle she carried water in a pitcher for soldiers to drink. When her husband became wounded, Molly Pitcher continued to fire his cannon. General Washington designed Molly Pitcher as a sergeant in the Continental Army for her bravery. No evidence exists that Molly Pitcher fought in any subsequent Revolutionary War battles.
Silcox-Jarrett, D. (1998). Heroines of the American Revolution: America’s founding mothers. Chapel Hill, NC: Green Angel.
Picture book, upper elementary level. The author focuses on 24 women who participated in different ways in the American Revolution. She includes women who spoke out about freedom with their husbands, those who boycotted English tea and cloth, women who made warm clothing for Patriot soldiers, those who spied or carried messages to Patriot soldiers, women who directly attacked British soldiers, and women who participated in battle. Most women are European American except for Nancy Ward, a Cherokee, and Phillis Wheatley, an African American.
Stevens, B. (1984). Deborah Sampson goes to war. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
Picture book, lower elementary level. The simple text portrays the life of Deborah Sampson, who grew up in a poor family, but was able to attend school because she lived with and worked for another family. Deborah supported the patriot cause and challenged traditional gender roles by active participation in the American Revolution at age 21. Since only men could fight, she disguised herself as a man and joined the army as Robert Shurtleff. After being wounded in battle, she tried to remove the musket ball from her own leg rather than risk a doctor discovering her female identity. Deborah continued to serve in the army, but a doctor treating her for another illness learned of her true identity, a surprise to her commanding officer! The author’s note clarifies that Deborah Sampson was honorably discharged from the army in 1783, and later became the first woman lecturer in the U.S. Deborah Sampson traveled to different cities telling about her experiences in the Revolutionary War.
Wallner, A. (1994). Betsy Ross. New York: Holiday House.
Picture book, elementary level. The author also illustrated the text briefly describing Betsy Ross’ life. In the author’s note, Wallner explains the lack of historical evidence that Ross sewed the first American flag. However, Ross’ family and friends passed down the story of George Washington commissioning Ross to sew the flag and Ross’ suggestions to modify Washington’s design. It was possible that Ross met with Washington regarding the flag design because Washington was in Philadelphia where Ross ran her upholstery shop at the time she claimed they met. The text could be used to discuss conflicting evidence and interpretations of historical events and people.
Winnick, K. (2000). Sybil’s night ride. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
Picture book, elementary level. The author portrays the historical figure Sybil Ludington, daughter of a colonel in the Revolutionary War. When Sybil’s family learns that the British were coming, Sybil volunteers to ride her horse 40 miles through the rainy night to call the militia to prepare for battle. Because of Sybil’s efforts, Colonel Ludington’s regiment joined with other regiments to resist the British advances and pushed them back to New York City. The author’s note provides additional background information on Sybil Ludington’s contributions to history.
Wroble, L. A. (1997). Kids in colonial times. New York: PowerKids Press.
Picture book, elementary level. The text provides a brief overview of who the colonists were, why they came to North America, and their lifestyles during this period (1607-1790). The author describes the simple homes; the chores performed by women, girls, men, and boys; the clothing they wore; how they fished, hunted, or grew their own food; the different ways the men, women, and children entertained themselves; and the importance of religion and education to the colonists.
Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2013, October). Valley Forge: The real story. Cobblestone, 34.
Elementary level. The opening article refutes some of the prevalent ideas about Valley Forge during the American Revolution. The winter during 1777-78 was relatively mild rather than harsh, the soldiers lived in log buildings rather than out in the open, Washington exaggerated the soldiers’ conditions to prompt quick action on getting the food they needed rather than soldiers starved, most soldiers had the shoes they needed rather than went without shoes, and the soldiers did not feel defeated despite recent battle losses. Other articles explain how the colonial army gained confidence in fighting the professional British soldiers, how the natural landscape around Valley Forge protected it, and the racial diversity of soldiers, including African Americans and Native Americans. “Remembering the Ladies” explains how women and children followed soldiers during the war and helped the soldiers by preparing food, washing clothes, and completing nursing duties. “A Great Leader” focuses on how George Washington’s leadership skills developed from the French and Indian War in 1754-1763 through commanding the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2000, November). Spain and the American Revolution. Cobblestone, 21.
Elementary level. The issue clarifies reasons for Spain’s involvement in supporting the Colonists during the Revolutionary War and how they assisted the patriots. Spain wanted the return of the Floridas in North America, the Mediterranean island of Minorca, and the Spanish coastal land of Gibraltar; control of the Bahamas and Jamaica in the Caribbean; and the end of British presence along the Mississippi River and in Central America. They achieved their goals except for the return of Gibraltar and control of Jamaica. Spain became involved in the war because of its antagonistic relationship with England rather than because they agreed with the Colonists. They secretly aided the Colonists by providing money, weapons, and clothing for the Continental Army until they officially declared war on England in 1779 and gained control of the Gulf of Mexico and the lower Mississippi River from the British.
Corsey, M. (Ed.). (1983, September). Patriot tales of the American Revolution. Cobblestone, 4.
Elementary level. The issue focuses on patriot perspectives of the American Revolution through portrayals of less known people. Examples include Caesar Rodney, one of the three representatives from Delaware who rode his horse 80 miles to the Continental Congress meeting to vote for independence from Great Britain; Luther Blanchard, a fifer and the first wounded as the Massachusetts minutemen encountered British troops at the Battle of Concord; and Johann Hess, a young Dutch farmer who warned the Continental Army of the presence of the British forces in the Pennsylvania countryside. Articles also include brief descriptions of individual spies and a spy ring and how they helped the patriots, Sybil Ludington’s night ride to gather her father’s sodiers to stop the advancement of British troops, and the money-raising talents of Haym Salomon to support the patriot cause.
Yoder, C. P. (Ed.). (1987, August). British Loyalists in the revolutionary era. Cobblestone, 8.
Elementary level. The issue clarifies that those Americans who were loyal to Britain during the Revolutionary War were called Tories or Loyalists. Generally, Loyalists believed Britain had the right to rule the Colonies even though they did not approve Britain’s treatment of the Colonies. Sometimes colonists became Loyalists to preserve their standing in the community, sometimes it was due to having their property taken by the rebels or patriots. It was estimated that 15-36% of the European American population during the Revolutionary era were Loyalists. Some Loyalists fled to England or Canada at the beginning of the American Revolution while some hid their views to avoid harassment by the patriots. Some formed Loyalist forces who fought against the Continental Army. Loyalists were sent to prison or fled to British-held cities, although they had to decide if they would remain in the city once the British left. One of the articles includes a timeline showing the rise of Loyalists in the Colonies at the beginning of the conflict with Britain and their escape to Canada, Europe, or the Bahamas after the war.
Adult Resources: Books
De Pauw, L. G. (1975). Founding mothers: Women in America in the Revolutionary era. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
The author focuses on women, half of the population living during the period of the American Revolution, but are often omitted from textbooks. She highlights the greater freedom women of the 17th century had than women in the 18th century which allowed them to participate in social, economic, political, and military activities. The author focuses on the work women did both in their homes and for money; the lives of Native American and African American women; women who identified themselves as “loyalists” and those who claimed to be “Daughters of Liberty;” women’s activities during the war; and women’s roles and rights of this era.
Roberts, C. (2004). Founding mothers: The women who raised our nation. New York: Perennial.
The author tells very interesting stories of the European American, elite women who influenced the Founding Fathers because they were the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and friends of these men. Roberts wants to include women’s place during this time period when the Declaration of Independence was written, the American Revolutionary War was fought, the Constitutional Convention was held, and the new government was formed. We primarily know what these women thought and did through their letters. Only a few women published their work, such as Mercy Otis Warren. The book describes the important work of Deborah Read Franklin, wife of Benjamin Franklin prior to the Revolutionary War. While Benjamin Franklin was in Europe representing the colony of Pennsylvania, Deborah stayed home and took care of the postal system, their print shops, and their real estate investments. During the American Revolution, women went with soldiers to camp, served as spies, organized boycotts of British goods, raised money for the troops, petitioned the government, and defended their homes. Martha Washington used her late husband Daniel Custis’s money to help the colonial troops, especially during the challenging winter at Valley Forge. She encouraged the troops, helped them with their wounds, sewed clothes for them, and kept them from deserting. When the new country was founded, Martha Washington had to set the tone for the President and First Lady that was dignified and democratic. She organized receptions and dinners, which allowed governmental leaders to be together outside Congress, where they completed the formidable work of setting up the new government. The author also explains the importance of improving women’s education at the time to prepare their children for citizenship in the new country.
Annotated bibliography list