Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Raucous Book of the Month

King George: What Was His Problem?
by Steve Sheinkin
Illustrated by Tim Robinson

I bought this book because of the title. I have always thought George III was a dullard so I was dieing to find out exactly what the title promised…what was his problem??? When I opened it up, I realized that this book was about the American Revolution (Yes, I missed the small print in the subtitle). Horror! Not another American history book. As a native of Boston, we laugh at the tourists who think the Battle of Bunker Hill was really fought on Bunker Hill. And there are only so many Boston duck tours and Lexington Battle reenactments that one person can stand in a lifetime. So you can imagine my disappointment when I realized the book that I thought would teach kids about royalty was really about those ruffians, our founding fathers. Don't kids have enough books on the American Revolution?

Boy was I wrong. Kids need this book.

First off, Sheinkin’s book is full of amusing antidotes about real people and not the cardboard cutouts that appear in text books. For example, who would have thought that Sam Adams, the sharp dressed guy on my favorite beer, was a sloppy dresser and had a thing for salmon. Did you know that Patrick Henry was a bit of a motor mouth? Yes, we hear tales of Washington’s troops being a bunch of hooligans, but did you know that Washington also had to break up a thousand-man snow ball fight between Massachusetts and Virginia?

What really sucked me in was not just the trivia. Sheinkin has a rare ability to tell history from all sides without getting too weighed down in the details. Best of all, he remembered the ladies. For example, did you know that Hannah Davis could watch the minutemen battling from her house? Have you ever thought about what Dorothy Quincy was doing in the middle of the melee? You will have to get the book to find out.

Readers also get plenty of real quotes, letters, maps, and George Washington's bad love poems. The text book information is there, but the pace is faster than Billy Dawes famous ride (Sheinkin calls this section “Revere and That Other Guy”) Yes, King George III only makes a few cameo appearances, but the reader won't miss him. (I still think he is a dullard) Overall, what really makes King George work is the fact that readers can take away far more than George’s dilemma. You start to see what everyone’s problem was, and most importantly, how so many colorful personalities (with very different opinions) came together for one goal.

A quick mention on the art: Tim Robinson’s hilarious pen and ink illustrations also give an extra layer of sauciness to the characters. George has the perpetual “I can’t believe I am being disobeyed” look of shock and Robinson captures the blustering, larger-than-life nature of Ethan Allen perfectly.

Note: The age range is 9-12, but I really hate when Amazon dumps books into this category. (They did this to my book too) The age range should say 9+ because adults will enjoy this book as much as kids.

For more books on George III see the Reading Section


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I love anything to do with the American Revolution, so I'm going to have to put this on my Wish List which is getting to be of epic proportions right now.

Anonymous said...

I'm not much for American history lately either but this book sounds great. Thanks for the review!