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Summary: Nate Chandler, a fourteen-year-old boy, lived on the family farm near the York River. In May 1781 the British launched a major campaign at Yorktown to end the six-year War for Independence. Bands of British Cavalry roamed the area ruthlessly attacking and killing innocent citizens. Nate and his parents were left for dead, their cattle taken, and the farm burned to the ground. He was determined to avenge the attack but felt helpless. A young militia officer recognized Nate’s ability to “think-on-his-feet” and paired him with James, a former negro slave with a photographic memory. They became an espionage team that provided valuable intelligence that General Washington and General Lafayette used to defeat the British and end the Revolyionary War. This is a historicaal novel that tells the story of two boys at the Battle of Yorktown.
Type of Reading: independent reading, family reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 11 to 14
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 6.2
Age of Child: Read by student at Woodside Magnet High School for Arts and Communication (Newport News, VA)
Young Reader Reaction: I was satisfied with this book. It had lots of interesting science and imaginative details. I liked how they pulled together spare change to build their ship. The book involved a lot of thinking and too much reading for me.
Adult Reader Reaction: The author has done an admirable job of “humanizing” the historical characters, thus making them more believable. The political and social realities of the times are presented objectively and fairly. Finally, the boys' adventures make the book enjoyable as well as educational.
Pros: This is a great read for the history buff and non-history reader alike. It is a historical novel about the Battle of Yorktown and the role that espionage played. It is a unique blend of fact and fiction that keeps the reader turning the page.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. Who is not captivated by “Secrets, Spies, and Scoundrels”? This is a great read. The author maintains the pace and drama by providing unique and believable adventures. It is a page turner of the first order.
Educational Themes: The author unobtrusively weaves a variety of political, social, and moral issues into the fabric of the story. The primary point is that the book is first and foremost an entertaining and enjoyable historical novel. Readers will find much food for thought and discussion. The savvy teacher or parent can help the readers digest their dinners.
Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, adventure, history