September 22, 1776, Manhattan, New York -- the day Captain Nathan Hale is to be hanged as a spy. A delay (the British Provost has misplaced the orders) gives Hale a chance for “last words” -- words that will make the history books: “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
But more than that, in this history told in illustrated panels, the delay allows a buzzard to interrupt the hanging and Hale to be swallowed up by the “Big Huge Book of American History.” There he sees long into the future of the not-yet-born nation setting the stage for this series by a modern Nathan Hale (a coincidental name), author and graphic artist.
In this first volume, Captain Hale gives us a detailed account of the beginning years of the American Revolution – the battles, the struggles, and the personalities – in a captivating storyteller’s voice and character-filled panels sure to hold kids’ interest page by page, incident by incident. Interspersed are scenes that return to the gallows -- where an easily-distracted British officer and a bumbling hangman – both who love a good story – decide not to stop Hale’s narrative with something as trivial as a hanging. Not quite yet, anyway.
Figures often skimmed over in other books about the Revolution are all here, fleshed out: Henry Knox, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, Stephen Hempstead, Benedict Arnold, and others. Details of battles, intrigue, strategies add depth to the story.
“A little more biographical info about…” section follows. It includes paintings of the characters, along with thumbnail biographies that will lead readers to more research, a mini comic about Crispus Attucks, and a “correction baby” section, where the author confesses to have used just a bit of “artistic license.”
Here’s history with an emphasis on story; history that is fun, nail-biting suspenseful, and satisfying to read.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS:
Take a page from Nathan Hale’s (the author-artist’s) book: have students do some follow up research on any of the historical figures or events that interest them in One Dead Spy and then create their own four-page comic about them or it. Circulate their books among their classmates.
Reviewed by LLW
Themes: U.S. History; Battles and War; Graphic Novels; Massachusetts; New York City
Suggested Ages: Ages 9-12