Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? by Jean FritzThis month, while the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge has been focusing on nonfiction, I decided to finally sit down and read a stack of the late Jean Fritzs books about the history of the United States. In total, I read 8 titles:
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? illustrated by Margot Tomes (1973)
Why Dont You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1974)
Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? illustrated by Margot Tomes (1975)
Whats the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? illustrated by Margot Tomes (1976)
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1976)
Cant You Make Them Behave, King George? illustrated by Tomie dePaola (1977)
Where Do You Think Youre Going, Christopher Columbus? illustrated by Margot Tomes (1980)
Shh! Were Writing the Constitution illustrated by Tomie dePaola (1987)
All of these except the last one are biographies of key figures in early America. In each biography, Fritz focuses on a representative quirk of each individual she profiles, which serves as a unifying thread for the important events of that persons life. For John Hancock, whose signature looms so large on the declaration of independence, this is his desire for attention and the ostentatious ways he went about trying to get it. For Sam Adams, it is his refusal to learn to ride a horse, for Columbus, his terrible sense of direction and tendency to stumble upon good fortune, and for King George, his blind paternalism toward the colonists, even when they have made very clear their disdain for him. In the last book, Shh! Were Writing the Constitution, Fritz tells the story of the difficulties and compromises that occurred among different historical figures as the U.S. Constitution slowly took shape.
In both types of books, Fritz focuses heavily not just on historical events, but on the personalities of the key figures who contributed to the outcomes of these events. Fritz does not simply idolize these men for their greatness; instead she shows both how they were ordinary (stubborn, foolish, insufferable, laughable, quirky, selfish, etc.) and extraordinary. No one is treated as all good or all bad, but instead they are portrayed as very human. For a reader like me who reads books mainly for their characters, I found this approach refreshing and endearing. Whereas I struggle to focus on lengthy informational texts that try to drill details into my memory, the characters in each of these books were fascinating to me. As I read in the evenings, I kept saying to my husband, Hey did you know...? and I never knew that...
None of these books is enough on its own to convey all the details of the discovery of America, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, or the drafting of the Constitution, but every single one of them provides context for understanding those events on a more personal and emotional level. The straightforward facts which are included alongside the biographical details are made more memorable by Fritzs engaging and humorous writing style, and everything she writes about comes to life in a way that school textbooks never could.They would make wonderful read-alouds for elementary kids who are studying colonial America, but they are just as entertaining as independent reads for older readers who want a refresher.
Also wonderful are the illustrations for each volume. There are three illustrators for these books: Margot Tomes, Trina Schart Hyman, and Tomie dePaola. Though all three artists styles suit the mood and content of the books, my personal favorite is Hyman. Her pictures have the most detail, and in my opinion, the most personality. Tomes is a close second - I especially like the way she draws children - but found that I associated dePaola too much with other books and other genres to feel like he was a good fit for this subject matter. Still, I think the designer for these books did a great job of keeping a consistent look to the whole series that places the reader in a particular frame of mind regardless of who drew the pictures.
Now that I have read all of these books, I understand why they were so popular in my school library during childhood and why I hear so much about them in homeschooling circles. I plan to use them with my kids when we study U.S. history and I hope they will learn to love history (as I never did as a child) by observing how much fun Fritz clearly had writing about it.
This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.
Not shy to express his opinions or agitate a few in power, Patrick Henry was arguably one of the most outspoken of all of the Founding Fathers. Not surprising for a man known more for the words he spoke than for his actions during the early years of the United States. But there was much more to Patrick Henry than a great speech, even if he was one of the best orators of the Revolutionary period. Here are ten interesting things you might not have known about Patrick Henry. In , he married a wealthy widow, Sarah Winston Syme. While his son attended local schools for a while, John took it upon himself to educate the young Henry.
View All Announcements. This acclaimed orator was also a member of the Continental Congress and a five-time Governor of Virginia. Born in , Henry was a poor student whose parents worried about his future. His father helped him and his brother, William, set up a business, which later went bankrupt. Henry then tried his hand at farming tobacco, but found himself to be unsuccessful in that endeavor. After their farmhouse burned down, Henry and his first wife, Sarah Shelton, moved in with her parents. He passed the bar exam after studying for just six weeks and began a successful legal and political career in
Patrick Henry , American orator and revolutionary, was a leader in Virginia politics for 30 years and a supremely eloquent voice during the American Revolution. Patrick Henry was born into a family of lesser gentry in Hanover County, Va. He received a good education from his father and his uncle, an Anglican clergyman. He largely failed at attempts to become a storekeeper and a farmer, and his early marriage to Sarah Shelton made him at 35 the father of six children, whom he was always hard-pressed to support. A cursory training in law at Williamsburg about , admission to the bar, and a modest beginning in a crowded profession did not at first improve his standing. In , defending a Louisa County parish against claims by its Anglican rector, Henry discovered the twin foundations of his public career—a deep empathy for injustice to the plain people and an eloquent voice that could overwhelm a jury.
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He was a gifted orator and major figure in the American Revolution. An outspoken Anti-Federalist, Henry opposed the ratification of the U. Constitution, which he felt put too much power in the hands of a national government. He was educated mostly at home by his father, a Scottish-born planter who had attended college in Scotland. Henry struggled to find a profession as a young adult. He failed in several attempts as a store owner and a planter.
Patrick Henry was an American Revolution-era orator best known for his quote "Give me liberty or give me death! With his persuasive and passionate speeches, Henry helped kickstart the American Revolution. Unlike his mother, who had strong roots in the region, his father immigrated to the colony from Scotland. The second of nine children, Henry received much of his schooling from his father, who had attended university in Scotland, and his uncle, an Anglican minister. He was a musical child, playing both the fiddle and the flute.
A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, John Henry hailed from a relatively affluent, well-regarded family. Also enrolled at the school was John Syme, a childhood friend. John Syme had made his fortune in Virginia, and feeling adventurous, Henry decided to join him. In , John Henry set sail for the colony, where he worked with Syme. Business was booming. During his first four years in the New World, Henry acquired over 15, acres.