Lafayette! by Nathan Hale
Gilbert du Motier became the Marquis de Lafayette at a young age, but he was not satisfied with the comforts of French nobility—he wanted adventure!
A captain at eighteen and a major general by nineteen, he was eager to prove himself in battle. When he heard about the Revolution going on in America, he went overseas and fought alongside Alexander Hamilton and George Washington for America’s independence.
YOU GUYS! If you’re a teacher or librarian and haven’t heard of Nathan Hale, I can only assume you’ve been living under a box. He takes historical figures and events and makes them kid-friendly. They are graphic novels told with a sense of humor and historical accuracy.
So my very favorite thing about this book was how relatable Lafayette was. Hale makes it clear that he was just a kid trying to make his way in the world. He makes mistakes and has setbacks, but he never gives up. And THAT is how he made history. It was interesting how young Hale portrayed Lafayette. Though married and a father, he was someone ten-year-olds are still going to be able to relate to. Genius.
The story is told by the dead spy Nathan Hale to the general who caught him (I think?) and the hangman who hung him. But these listeners are not passive listeners. Like the little boy in The Princess Bride, they are constantly interjecting. And they are hilarious. From Captain Underpants-style glee at baby butts to genuinely witty observations about history’s hypocrisies, this book is chock-full of laugh out loud moments. Which, I think, is key in catching the attention of kids.
But don’t let the humor or Hamilton references fool you, this book is well researched and quite accurate. Hale takes history seriously. This would be a great class read for fifth grade during the unit on the Revolutionary War. Even the characters are accurate, if exaggerated. Also, I should note that the visual nature of the graphic novel is great for a war-read, because it makes the battles very visual and easy to understand. Especially Lafayette’s tricks.
I don’t know why I didn’t jump on the Hazardous Tales train earlier, but I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to start recommending this book to kids!