Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Notorious Benedict Arnold

The Notorious Benedict Arnold YA Non-Fiction book is a great read.  Alohamora husband read my Best Books of 2013 blog post  and was pleasantly surprised I had a non-fiction book, Bomb, as my favorite book of 2013.  He, like most boys/men, loves non-fiction, and he also read the book and loved it.  I however, am not a lover of non-fiction books.  I have read a fair number of non-fiction books and I always enjoy a well written one, but non-fiction is not what I gravitate to.  It just goes to show that a fabulous book whether it's my favorite genre or not can win my Best Book award.

Since I loved Bomb, and I wanted to buy it at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale but I held myself back b/c I have a book budget to get, my husband got it for me for Christmas.  He also ordered The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin b/c it was by the same author as Bomb.  I think it's because he is just trying to get me to read more non-fiction. :)

To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about Benedict Arnold to start with.  He had a very big and exciting role in the Revolutionary War that I hadn't learned or paid attention to in school.  However, I guess if history class had been written or explained as exciting as Sheinkin did in this book I would've gotten a lot more out of it.

I would give The Notorious Benedict Arnold 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It was clear to me why this book was the winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Non-Fiction Award from the YALSA/ALA (American Library Association).   The Notorious Benedict Arnold wasn't a page turner like I would give a 5 star book, and there were dry spots at times.  However, overall it was a well written historical book which portrayed the exciting battles Benedict Arnold was in and how he eventually was swayed to defunct to the British Army after reaching high ranks in the Continental Army.

Sheinkin weaved the story and the main character's, John Andre' (a British officer that was a POW) and Arnold, lifes so fabulously.  He made you feel like you really knew both of them and feel for their successes, pains, and frustrations.  Andre' and Arnold truly did have quite the complicated story of action, secrecy, spies, and treachery that Sheinkin made it easy to understand and exciting to read.  

About 100 pages into the book you really start to learn about military life during the 1700s.  At one point there was another guy who wasn't a fan of Arnold so he didn't do what Benedict Arnold asked him to do (even though Arnold was ranked higher).  Then the individual lies about Arnold to others and thus begins some of the troubles and frustrations Arnold had with the Army.  As I was reading this I thought that the military now isn't much different; who you know and who you have offended or blessed makes all the difference.  

Near the end of the book after Arnold had defected to the British Army Benedict Arnold wrote a letter to George Washington to explain himself.  He said, "I have ever acted from principle of love to my country: since the commencement of the present unhappy contest between Great Britain and the colonies, the same principle of love to my country actuates my present condition, however it may appear inconsistent to the world, who very seldom judge right any man's actions."  I agree that very few people do judge our actions correctly.  I just liked that thought.  

The Notorious Benedict Arnold would be perfect for middle school students, high school students, and adults alike.  Boys would love everything about this book, and if they have to read a book for a class project this would be perfect.  It would engage the reader and non-reader alike.  If I were a parent of a reluctant boy  reader I would give him, or read with him, this book.

This book is clean as far as language is concerned, but you do have the action of war and battles to deal with.  Nothing too gruesome, but he does go into some detail to make you really feel how brutal the battles and war was at times. 

Amazon had the following book review: 

"American history is brought to life in this engaging story of revolution and treason. Most people know very little about Benedict Arnold–only that he was a traitor during the American War of Independence. Sheinkin recounts the tale of a larger-than-life persona, from his uncertain boyhood to his immense popularity as an unpredictable, yet brilliant, commander in the American army, and finally, to his end days, living in London, despised and disgraced. The story of Arnold's bravery and his rise in the esteem of the colonists is played out against the political squabbling and fears the Continental Congress had about military figures becoming too powerful and upsetting the delicate democracy they were busy creating. Through letters, journals, historic accounts, and other resources, Sheinkin keeps readers wanting to know what will happen next. Short, episodic chapters titled with relevant dates are an effective way to pace various battles–on the field and off–and understand their place in the larger picture of the war. Other key figures are well developed in the narrative. Seeing a glimpse of these personalities makes their subsequent actions believable and meaningful. The Notorious Benedict Arnold is likely to make readers want to learn more about the American Revolution and its players, great and small. Source notes at the end of the book allow them to do just that."

Sounds pretty great doesn't it! It's a good read, and worthy of your time.  Plus, if you are like me, you will learn more in this one book about the Revolutionary War than you did in all your school years.  

Happy reading!  

What are you reading? Next up, "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green.  I've read many of his books and have enjoyed all of them.  Can't wait to refresh myself of this one since the movie is coming out next month.     

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