The newest installment of Nathan Hale’s outstanding graphic nonfiction series focuses on the Battle of the Alamo in Texas, when it was still a part of Mexico. The spy Nathan Hale is the narrator of the story, as usual in the series, but this time he is joined by his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Guerrero, and Guerrero’s executioners. Hale traces the story of the Alamo back to the beginning, when Stephen Austin led a group of 300 families to settle in the part of Mexico that later became Texas. We learn about the Mexican revolution, the ensuing political unrest in Mexico City, and the resulting chaos and fighting in the more remote areas of the country, including the area where Texas lies today.
Hale’s Alamo All-Star group includes Stephen Austin, David Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Juan Seguin. All four men’s backstories weave in and out of the main narrative describing the root causes of the Battle of the Alamo, and all are full of adventure, humor, and peril. The story of Santa Anna’s rise to power and his reasons for attacking the Alamo are also included in the book. Readers will be relieved to discover that the narrative doesn’t end with the fall of the Alamo—Hale makes sure to include the survivors’ stories and brings the narrative to a close with the beginning of Texas’s statehood.
As always in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, the historical narrative is presented to the reader with lots of side commentary and jokes from the executioner and British officer also on Nathan Hale’s gallows. In this book, the already successful formula is improved even more by the inclusion of Guerrero and the other executioners, who give the reader important tidbits about Mexican events and make snide remarks about early Mexican presidents and other leaders. Dialogue is almost all fictional, with the rare actual quotation from a historical figure, but it works really well to move the story along and make it understandable and exciting to kids. Readers will emerge with a solid understanding not only of the Battle of the Alamo, but also a large part of Mexican history.
The artwork is the result of a beautiful mixture of creativity and historical research. Soldiers’ uniforms and weaponry are depicted with just the right amount of detail, and characters’ faces are all distinctive. Though the only colors found in the artwork are black, white, and yellow, shading goes a long way toward depicting the true diversity of the people involved in the story of the Alamo. Battles and smaller fights are depicted in a way that is exciting and dramatic, but always avoids gratuitous violence and gore. Maps in particular are handled very well; important features pop out of the page, and readers have no trouble visualizing complicated events and groups of people. There’s only one feature that is very creative but that may confuse younger readers: cholera is depicted as a huge monster moving across landscapes and maps. This is a great way to convey the deadliness of the disease without getting into the horrid details, but kids who have never encountered the word before might not understand what is happening. Otherwise, the narrative is perfectly clear.
Readers aged 8-12 who love true stories with lots of action should immediately pick this up, along with the rest of the books in the series. Fans of Guys Read: True Stories or Gary Paulsen’s autobiographical books will also like it.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
by Nathan Hale
Publisher Age Rating:8-12