Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blistered Feet and Itchy Clothes

What is war like? TV, movie, and video game thrills and chills are one thing. The real thing is quite another.

FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010

Following the success of her best seller Chains, which received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2009, acclaimed author Anderson continues the story of Curzon and Isabel.

In the first book, the pair escaped slavery. At the opening of the second book, the two are separated and 15 year old Curzon is a free man serving in the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Where is Isabel? Is she still alive?

A descendent of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution, the author carried her research beyond a plethora of primary sources. She walked barefoot in the snow, cooked over open fires, wrote by candlelight, and split wood, grinding into her writing bones the cold and hunger the soldiers suffered.

Anderson’s characters forge bonds of friendship in spite of the chains forged to defeat Curzon and Isabel. The settings are believable enough for adults but not so harsh that young readers will recoil. Shelter, clothes, shoes, blankets, and tools were scarce and sometimes nonexistent. The soldiers ate firecake, squirrel, and opossum. What they had in great supply was determination and indomitable spirits. Their pluck adds depth to the meaning of Freedom.

Quotes from real people add authenticity. Each chapter is headlined by a quote from a diary, letter, speech, and newspapers of the day.

My favorite: “‘I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It allways appeard (sic) a most iniquitous Scheme to me-fight ourselfs for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this subject.’–Abigail Adams, whose father owned slaves, writing to her husband, John.”

My favorite quote from a character is Curzon’s: “For all the talk of battles and gun fire, soldiering was mostly about blistered feet and itchy clothes.”

To read more about the author, follow her

on twitter

or her blog

For readers ages 8 and up, Chains and Forge bring American history to life. They fit perfectly on any list of books to read during Black History Month.

Looking for more titles for Black History Month? Here's an excellent blog I follow


  1. Many thanks for this post Joan.
    I bought CHAINS in Nov. & look forward to reading it & now even more so, with FORGE ahead. The characters sound especially amazing. And the research you mention that LHA did is stunning. I'm not sure I could bring my balmy breezes self to walk barefoot in snow when not required to. I doff my tri-corner hat to her. And to you for sharing this.
    When Jimmy Carter wrote fiction set during the American REvolution he said something about it being less represented in fiction than the Civil War. I'm glad to see a great story of young readers set in AR times.
    Many thanks again.

  2. And there's a third book coming!


Hillview School Library