HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Why Not, Lafayette?
Author: Jean Fritz
Illustrator: Ronald Himler
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished in 2001
Related website: www.penguin.com/youngreaders (publishser)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Said to be for ages 7 and up, but I think ages 10-13 is a better match
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Fritz, Jean. Why Not, Lafayette? (published in 1999 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Do you remember who Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier was? He is very famous in American history, but you probably know him better as the Marquis de Lafayette, or, as he preferred to be called, just Lafayette, who was born Sept. 6, 1757. His father died before he was two years old and his mother and grandfather died when he was twelve, leaving him to inherit their fortune under the guardianship of his great-grandfather. At fourteen years old, he joined the French Military and, at age sixteen, married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles, whose family was related to King Louis XVI. At nineteen, against the wishes of his great-grandfather, his father-in-law, and the King, he purchased a ship and persuaded several French officers to accompany him to fight in the American Revolution.
And, the rest, as they say, is history. Colonial General George Washington appointed Lafayette a major general. Wounded at Brandywine, the young Frenchman endured the freezing winter at Valley Forge, and then saw action at Barren Hill and Rhode Island. Returning to France for as time, he, along with Ben Franklin, was able to secure troops and supplies from the French government for the American cause which helped to force Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown. By then Lafayette was again in America and present for the surrender. Back in France, Lafayette upheld the ideals of liberty all through the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, and the rule of Napoleon, though he spent five years in an Austrian prison. Following his release, in 1824, President James Monroe invited Lafayette to the United States as the “nation’s guest,” and during the trip, he visited all twenty-four states.
Jean Fritz is a wonderful author. We have read and liked many of her biographies for children, such as George Washington’s Breakfast; And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?; Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?; Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?; Just A Few Words, Mr. Lincoln; The Double Life of Pocahontas; and Harriet Beecher Stow and the Beecher Preachers. We have also enjoyed a few of her young people’s novels, such as Early Thunder; The Cabin Faced West; and Brady. Some parents might want to know that George Washington is quoted as having called the hapless General Charles Lee a “d*** poltroon.” It is said that Lafayette had never heard Washington swear before, “but obviously he could.” Lafayette was truly a remarkable character in history. It is no wonder that General John J. Pershing is reported to have said when he and his armies landed in France during World War I to help the French against the attacks of Kaiser Bill’s Germany and its allies, “Lafayette, we are here.”