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Yesterday I picked up Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy, the first book in the series. Though in reality, the books don’t need to be read in order.
Nathan Hale is a young man who has enrolled at Yale to become a teacher, however, the Revolutionary War sends him down a different life path. Hale enlists in the army and is promoted within a short period of time. Though he commands other troops, Hale doesn’t see a lot of action. In a bid to prove himself, he volunteers to be Washington’s first spy–to learn what he can about the plans of the British army. Unfortunately, things take at turn for the worse for this promising young man once he enters enemy territory.
Since this is the first book in the series, it introduces readers to the three ongoing main characters: the Hangman, the British Soldier and Nathan Hale. The premise is that while Nathan is waiting on the gallows to be hanged, he’s swallowed by a giant history book and absorbs all of the knowledge that it contains about U.S. history. When he comes out of the book, he convinces the Hangman and Soldier to wait to hang him until he can tell them his story. (After his story, they agree to wait so that he can tell them another interesting story from American history.)
Hale’s personal story is fairly simple. He was a young man with dreams of doing something brave for his country and that was largely denied him because he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once he volunteers to spy for Washington, it’s easy to see that he’s not exactly the ideal candidate, but it’s admirable that he is willing to give all in the service of his country. A spy needs to be a bit more jaded and cunning than Hale was, and his naiveté worked against him in his role as spy. It’s sad that his life was cut short at such a young age, but he certainly wasn’t the only young man to die during that time period to secure freedom for America.
At the end of the the book there’s a bit more biographical information about some of the more colorful characters in the story, and a section with the story of Crispus Attucks–both very interesting.
This book isn’t my favorite in the series, but I think that’s because the author was finding his way and experimenting with this first book. In later books, I think he has managed to hone his style and creativity in storytelling a little more. With that said, I still think it’s a worthwhile read.
I’ve really come to like the author’s style of illustrations. They definitely appeal to a younger audience, but I think they’re just as engaging for older folks, too. I love learning about history this way! Both of my boys read the book, and they want to read the entire series. No problem, boys!
I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium. Even for older folks, it’s a fun way to learn about history.
- Violence (though the illustrations are not graphic)
Rating: 4 Stars
Until next time…