Slavery and the American Revolution; Forge provides another view

Forge (Seeds of America Book 2) by Laurie Halse Anderson; published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2010; 294 pages.

When Chains (Seeds of America Book 1) ended, Curzon was rescued from sure death by Isabel and they rowed into the fog to freedom.  Or did they escape?  Forge continues the historically accurate story of Curzon and Isabel’s fight for freedom during the American Revolution.  After a spat over money and where to run, the pair went their separate ways.  Curzon’s running ends when he helps a young soldier defeat a Red Coat in a skirmish.  Friendship is forged between the two which starts a chain of friendship and loyalty as Curzon joins General Washington’s men at Valley Forge.  Even while battling prejudice and bad weather at Valley Forge, Curzon’s past returns to haunt him.  He finds he might have a path to freedom; but at what cost?

Being a fan of both historical fiction and Laurie Halse Anderson may color my perception of this book.  I adored Chains and waited impatiently for the sequel.  At first I was disappointed that Curzon took over the role of narrator.  But as the winter grew more harsh at Valley Forge, I couldn’t imagine this story being told any other way.  As students, we all have learned how brutal the conditions were for the soldiers at Valley Forge.  Nothing I learned at school prepared me for what Curzon and his company endured.  Among all the struggles for survival, Anderson has done a remarkable job of reminding us how unfair the fight for freedom was–everyone was expected to fight, but not everyone was fighting for their freedom.

Curzon’s voice is full of the vernacular of the time.  Fortunately, a vocabulary list is included at the end of the book.  The use of vernacular did not detract from the storytelling; instead, it enriched my experience and gave more insight into the era.  Anderson’s inclusion of questions and answers about the historical accuracy and her research is also an important piece of this story.  I especially appreciated her discussion of which characters are real historical figures and which are amalgams of multiple people (including Curzon).

Indeed, the quotes that open each chapter added to the storytelling and the history lessons.   Placed inside a book with rough cut pages, the use of fonts that read like the old broadsides of the Revolutionary period, and the use of vernacular made me feel like I was reading a historical document (a very readable historical document, by the way).  If the history books of my childhood were written with as much emotion, truth and accessibility, I would have read and retained far more information.  For that reason, I would recommend this for middle and high school students.

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 6-12

Cover Art: The patchwork quilt look of Chains continues on this cover.  This time we see Curzon in his red tricorn and carrying his musket it the snow that marked winter at Valley Forge.  Keeping the design identity of the series is important to identify this as a sequel.  Readers of Chains will recognize it and continue the saga.

From Reading List: The Way It Was (Historical Fiction)

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