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“John knew the man would shoot him if he tried to run. . . John was hungry and tired. He was scared, too. Where was the man taking him? What would John do if they were going to a British camp?” - Buttons for General Washington
Buttons for General Washington
On My Own History
by Peter & Connie Roop
Fourteen-year-old John Darragh was a spy. But British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777 was not a safe place for an American spy. If he were captured, John knew he would be hanged. In this suspenseful story based on accounts of the Darragh family’s spying activities for General Washington, young John undertakes a dangerous mission to deliver a message to the American army.
Buttons for General Washington introduces history to beginning readers. While the book features real people from history, the story is fictional. The author’s note at the beginning of the book explains important historical information that makes the book easier to understand. For example, the author explains why the characters use thee and thou. To make the book accessible to beginning readers, each page has three to nine sentences with easy vocabulary. In addition, a large illustration appears on almost every page to break the text into manageable parts.
Readers interested in history will find Buttons for General Washington intriguing. John Darragh’s dangerous mission to deliver a message to General Washington is suspenseful because John worries that if British soldiers discover he is a spy, they will hang him. The story does not go into depth, however, which may frustrate stronger readers. The book doesn’t explain what secret code was used or how others were able to decode the message. While the story stresses the importance of the message, readers are left to wonder why the message was important. Despite this, the story’s brevity makes the text accessible to beginning readers, who will learn many interesting facts about British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777.
- John thinks about the spies who were captured and were “lucky to end up in prison. Usually they were hanged.”
- While in town, John runs into Samuel, a Tory, who is the same age as him. After a brief argument, Samuel poked John and then pushed him to the ground.
- While in the woods, a man surprises John. “Suddenly, a hand grabbed [John] from behind. . . The man aimed a pistol at John.” The man turns John in to an American camp, where John’s brother was stationed. John is set free.
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