It’s September 22, 1776 and Nathan Hale is about to be hanged for spying. But first, he has a story to tell…
With humorous interjections from the hangman, and some stubborn patriotism from a British soldier, Nathan Hale tells the story of his experiences in the American Revolution. Starting with his life at Yale and on to his experiences in the war, the reader meets a variety of historical characters and sees the war from different perspectives. There is a fantasy/fictional element to the story, with Hale’s future knowledge coming from a history book, some silly dialogue, and the “magic pictures” Hale uses to tell the story. The history behind the story is shown in biographical information at the end of the book, as well as a bibliography, discussion of research and historical facts that are disputed (provided by “Correction Baby” of the Research Lab, manned by “adorable babies”). There’s also an additional story about Crispus Attucks, with a discussion of propaganda.
Nathan Hale’s art will be familiar to fans of Shannon and Dean Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack. (Editor’s Note: Nathan is no relation to the Hale couple.) The color scheme is all grays, browns, and reds, giving a grim, serious air even when there are funny elements to the story. The characters are caricatured, but still individual characters, showing determination, fear, and in the case of Henry Knox wildly funny and completely insane optimism. The book’s compact size means a lot of text and art is packed into 127 pages, but not a single panel is wasted.
The book eases into the text-heavy sections, so reluctant readers will get sucked in by the jokes and action and find themselves too fascinated to stop when they reach the more complex history. A fresh and funny look at the American Revolution and historical narratives in general with promises of many more great stories to come.
This is a history of a war, so there’s violence and some mild bad language (in original quotes) but nothing too gory or inappropriate for younger readers.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy
by Nathan Hale