Richie’s Picks: SOPHIA’S WAR: A TALE OF THE REVOLUTION
Richie’s Picks: SOPHIA’S WAR: A TALE OF THE REVOLUTION by Avi, Beach Lane, September 2012, 320p., ISBN: 978-1-4424-1441-9
“Let me be fourthright: I was perfectly aware that a war was going on. I considered myself an ardent patriot. Yet, I must confess, I began to think of my brother, William, as a problem. What if he – about whom John André knew nothing – suddenly appeared? How would the lieutenant deal with a rebel soldier in our midst? How would I deal with it? Would William attack André? These questions gave me moments of perplexity and confusion. More shame on me! But though William did not appear, in fairness to me, he was frequently in my thoughts.
That said, there I was – a twelve-year-old girl – feeling real affection with one of the enemy. And early affection, as I would learn, lasts late.”
SOPHIA’S WAR begins with a hanging (Nathan Hale) and concludes with another hanging (John André). These executions are facts of history.
Back at the beginning of the year, as a finalist judge in the CYBILS mg/ya nonfiction category, I had the pleasure of reading THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD: A TRUE STORY OF ADVENTURE, HEROISM & TREACHERY by Steve Sheinkin. Having always loved immersing myself in American history, I was in shock that I’d only ever heard the one-liners about Benedict Arnold, never this important tale about an American hero who arguably deserves a giant slice of credit for the success of the patriots; an American hero with an Achilles heel who eventually turned against the cause, and whose name lives in infamy.
SOPHIA’S WAR is a fascinating piece of historical fiction that will make a perfect companion read for THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD. Avi weaves a tale of a young woman in a family supporting independence, living in British-held Manhattan. This becomes a far-more complicated situation when, first, her big brother William – a rebel soldier – falls out of touch and is feared injured or killed, and then when the British military orders Sophia’s parents to provide room and board for a British officer. The officer turns out to be the cultured John André, the historical figure I knew all about from the Steve Sheinkin book.
Sophia is entranced by André, who is the first person to ever treat her like a young woman. But what Sophia considers treachery – André’s subsequent failure to intervene on behalf of her brother when the seriously-injured Wiliam is captured and imprisoned – will lead to her seeking revenge a few years later.
“I told myself I must be patient, but in truth, my anxiety was constantly mounting. What if, in this waiting time. ‘Mr. Moore’ found a way to give West Point to the British? The war would be lost.”
Inserting a fictional character (Sophia) into the mix, Avi takes advantage of the interesting, seemingly-impossible, coincidences that in history led to the foiling of the André/Arnold plot -- coincidences that conceivably might have turned the tide of the Revolutionary War -- and creates an exciting adventure story of what might have happened to cause the failure of that plot.
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