HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: John Paul Jones: Fighting Sailor or John Paul Jones: The Pirate Patriot
Author: Armstrong Sperry
Publisher: Sterling Publishing, republished in 2006
Related website: http://armstrongsperry.com/author/johnpauljones/index.shtml (author)
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Sperry, Armstrong. John Paul Jones: Fighting Sailor or John Paul Jones: The Pirate Patriot (published in 1953 by Random House Children’s Books, New York City, NY). I have always enjoyed reading about the heroes, both well known and unsung, of the American Revolution. One of my favorites was John Paul Jones, who is acknowledged to be the “Father of the United States Navy.” Born John Paul on July 6, 1747, at Arbigland near Kirkbean in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, he began a maritime career at age thirteen, settled in Fredericksburg, VA, took the new surname “Jones,” and in 1775 joined the Continental Navy. What most people remember about him is that in 1779 he was in command of the ship Bonhomme Richard, given to the United States by France, and engaged in battle with the British ship Serapis. Hopelessly outgunned, Jones made the statement, “I have not yet begun to fight,” and managed to capture the Serapis, though the Bonhomme Richard was so damaged that it sunk.
One of my favorite books in the library of the small, rural elementary school which I attended was a young person’s biography of Jones. After doing some research, I am confident that John Paul Jones: Fighting Sailor, a fictionalized biography of this naval hero of the American Revolution by Armstrong Sperry, is the one. I have always enjoyed the excitement and adventure of Sperry’s books, especially his 1941 Newbery Award winning Call It Courage, so I would naturally be drawn to his book about Jones. Sperry himself had served in the United States Navy, giving him an interest in this great sea captain. The biography cites the major events in Jones’s life that acted as catalysts for his dislike for the English, but the bulk of John Paul Jones, Fighting Sailor focuses upon Jones’s service in the Continental Navy during the American Revolution.
The book was #39 in Random House’s wonderful Landmark Book series. It was republished in 1963 and then rereleased in 2006 by Sterling Point Books, under the new title John Paul Jones, The Pirate Patriot (why it was felt necessary to change the name is completely beyond me unless it’s to emphasize the less desirable actions of Jones in his career). The dust jacket of the 1953 edition said, “For four years young Captain Jones had fought in the naval battles of the American Revolution. He had raided the sea coast of England, captured a British sloop, and taken several merchant chips as prizes. As captain of the frigate Ranger, he was the first to hoist the Stars and Stripes to the masthead of an American man-of-war. It was the proudest moment of his life, for this was a new flag of the country — the United States of America. Captain Jones ordered a thirteen-gun salute and glowed with pride when he heard the answering salute from the French flagship. The youngest nation was recognized by the powerful country of France.” It is a great book, and I am glad that it is still available.