Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!

big bad ironcladNathan Hale, both the author and the historical figure, are back with another hazardous tale. The “hazard level” on this tale is red for “explosive” and it certainly is explosive!

Nathan Hale, waiting to be hanged, has become a part of history and is now relating exciting historical stories to the dimwitted but kindly hangman and the stubborn British soldier waiting to carry out his sentence. In this tale, they move forward to the Civil War and the battle of the ironclads. Having decided to go with General Scott’s Anaconda plan of battle, the North needs to blockade the South’s coast. Unfortunately, they have no ships. Gideon Welles, “Father Neptune,” is in charge of the (nonexistent) navy of the Union and soon decides that in order to keep up with the South and their naval commander, Stephen Mallory, they need to build ironclads, ships covered in iron and virtually invincible. More characters include the irascible John Ericsson, Swedish inventor who created the ironclads used by the Union; Gustavus Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (portrayed by a “cute li’l fox”); and William Cushing, whose wild exploits and constant clashes with authority enliven an already exciting story.

Hale switches out his red and gray color scheme from One Dead Spy for blue and gray, perfect for many of the night scenes that take place. Although the drawings are small and detailed, the reader never loses track of the huge cast of characters and the complicated history, thanks to Hale’s expert portrayals of the various characters and settings. Hale gives his imagination free reign with characters portrayed as animals, monstrous (literally) boats, humorous interjections, and dazzling explosions and chase scenes.

Even the most reluctant reader will snatch up this story, not realizing how much history they’re learning until they finish the last page. The additional material at the end includes biographies of the main characters, a timeline of the war, a “build your own Monitor” craft, research and history discussion, and bibliography.

As the hangman says “It’s history – no one gets out alive” and there’s some off-scene violence and plenty of asterisked swearing, especially from John Ericsson. However, the story is completely appropriate for young readers and will be enjoyed by elementary and middle grade kids who are interested in history or just like humorous stories with plenty of action and adventure.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
by Nathan Hale
ISBN: 9781419703959
Amulet, 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *