Nick, an orphan and a pickpocket, and Penny, the daughter of a tavern owner, find themselves caught up in politics, war and espionage when the residents of Boston decide to fight back against the British government in 1775. Though they didn’t know each other well before, after a chance meeting where Penny saves Nick from two British soldiers, the two young people become fast friends. Soon, they are looking for ways to help the patriot cause and assist such men as Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren, leaders in the early Revolutionary struggles. But as war sends them in different directions, will they be able to find the courage to do what they must to aid the rebel cause?
Stan Mack and Susan Champlin’s book is a cute, if not very serious, look at two young people during the Revolutionary War. Humor is very present, which does make for a nice change from the usual extremely dramatic or overly dry historical graphic novels that have been aimed at kids in the past. Reading this title feels more like reading a younger version of Larry Gonick’s classic THE CARTOON HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, but with fewer voice-overs. Nick and Penny are appealing by their very ordinariness. They are both scrappy and not afraid of hard work, and their youth does not make them immature. They are brave and eager to help, and kids will enjoy the idea that two people so normal could make such a difference at an important point in history, even if this is still a fictional story. The other characters are mostly archetypes. The patriots are all loyal and just, the Tories are all fat and lazy, and the British soldiers are all bullies. This, along with the humorous asides found on many pages, furthers the feel of reading a comic strip, rather than a full graphic novel.
The art also has a cartoon feel, but that doesn’t make it or the writing any less appealing or effective. Clear primary colors and thin, simple lines keep the pages tidy and easy to follow. With a complex story like the siege of Boston, this is doubly important. Issues such as women’s role in society during the 1800s are examined, and they make the story more realistic, giving it needed depth. Mack and Champlin include a prologue (“In Which We Learn How We Got Here”), a guide to the characters, a map of important locales, and an epilogue (“In Which We Learn What’s Fact and What’s Fiction”). These elements make this a good choice for supplementing a late elementary school or early middle school study of the Revolutionary War.
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on July 21, 2009
Road to Revolution!: The Cartoon Chronicles of America