Consequently, it works, admirably. The book also comes with a glossary and sample discussion questions, making it suitable for classroom use.
It stands on its own, though, as a history book. Any reader can learn a few things here about westward expansion, the French influence on American development and relations between settlers and the Native American population. A grownup should not be scared away, nor should we hardened readers of heavyweight history tomes; it’s the author’s narrative gift that makes book simultaneously enjoyable to read and marvelously informing.
In preface and in post-story, the author makes clear her credentials in delivering history lessons to the target audience of the book. I suspect the book is aimed at a tough audience, but it admirably tells a good story; it is not easy, engaging a young audience in matters 200 or more years old (unless it involves vampires, evidently), but the story of the French coat seems an excellent way to try.
It also leaves a lot out, for the good. I imagine questions really fly, in class, about how the characters in the story interact when Lafayette is not involved. For example, who does the building, the cooking, the sewing, the entertaining, and how are the roles assigned? Some of us have read enough books or seen enough movies to understand the delineation of labor in the colonies, but those new to their history need a starting point. This book is an excellent example of one.
Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident and can be contacted at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.
• WHAT: "Journey of the French Coat"
• BY: Gretchen Duling
• GRADE: A