Archive for December 22nd, 2017

by Sam Juliano

Evoking the immortal oil paintings of John Trumbull, Benjamin West and Archibald Willard, children’s literature luminary Wendell Minor, whose work has graced the covers of acclaimed biographical and historical volumes, has turned his eye on key events of the American Revolution, producing one lush tapestry after another in a picture book titled Ben’s Revolution: Benjamin Russell and the Battle of Bunker Hill, written by Nathaniel Philbrick.  The author culled a single episode from his 2013 work Bunker Hill, focusing on the complicity of a thirteen year old boy during the war’s earliest stages.  The British prevailed in what was tantamount to a Pyrrhic victory, as the colonists’ tenacity and heavy inflicting of casualties on the British redcoats served notice on their enemy while emboldening their own resolve.

Ben’s Boston  Philbrick sub-divides the ported over chapter into twenty-one mini sections.  Too short to be labeled “chapters” they are just topic divisions for young readers aimed at serving notice when the narrative either shifts in tone or setting.  A calm before the storm is posed in the two paragraph opening, when Ben, oblivious to mounting tensions, tends to the family cow near the saltwater “Back Bay” around his school hours, when he also helps his father’s printer friend Isaiah Thomas, fitting letters into words and learning their power far more efficaciously than he did in the classroom.  The Patriots Rebel!  Philbrick’s concise telling of the reason for the “Boston Tea Party” and the encapsulation of its execution is magnificently envisioned in Minor’s initial double page canvas, a nocturnal triumph for Patriots deciding the right timing was upon them.  The artist’s mutinous capture includes a hanging Union Jack and the incandescence emanating from lanterns on the dock, in life boats and on board of the Dartmouth, under a moon sliver far less illuminative than the “ghostly galleon” in Alfred Noyes’ famous poem about a colonial bandit gunned down by the redcoats. (more…)

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