One Dead Spy
Review posted July 31, 2014.
Abrams, 2012. 127 pages.
Once again, I’m struck by what a brilliant idea it is to show kids history in graphic novel form.
The frame of this series is pure fantasy. Our hero is Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War spy. Somehow, I’m simply not surprised that he’s the hero chosen by the author Nathan Hale, who was born in 1976.
Before the historical Nathan Hale’s scheduled hanging, there’s a silly sequence about how he comes up with his famous line, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” When he does, a giant book with the title, The Big Huge Book of American History appears and swallows him whole. But then he comes back, having seen hundreds of years into the future of this country.
The executioner asks, “How could you see the future in a history book? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Nathan Hale answers, “A giant book just swallowed me whole. Does that make sense?”
But then, to prove he’s seen the future, Nathan Hale begins telling stories to the executioner and the British officer overseeing the hanging. They decide he can tell more stories before he hangs, which is the premise of the series.
And the stories Nathan Hale tells are true, with plenty of invented dialog and put into comic book form.
This first book tells about Nathan Hale’s life and his service in the Revolutionary War. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. (And it’s not long, either.)
Did you know that Nathan Hale wasn’t actually a very good spy? He got caught on his first mission. But he was involved in some noteworthy exploits before he became a spy. I especially found interesting the way the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga got moved to liberate Boston Harbor, and the way General Washington had a fort built and moved into place in one night.
I love the warning on the back cover:
HAZARD LEVEL: Yellow/ Lethal
Riots, massacre, starvation, fever, theft, spycraft, mercenaries, sea warfare, land warfare, lightning, exploding cows, and death by hanging.
Do you know any school-age kids who can resist such a warning?