Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812

Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812


Book: Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812

Author: Hope Irvin Marston with Burt Phillips

Illustrators: Lyrisse Castro Grube, Sonya Boushek, and Nancy Walker Morrison

Publisher: CreateSpace, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0984993512

ISBN-10: 0984993517

Related website: (author)

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: For ages 10 and up, but I would say 12 and up

Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Marston, Hope Irvin, with Phillips, BurtSackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812 (published in 2012 by CreateSpace).  Do you know what a “powder monkey” is?  Could it be a simian that helps your mother to put on her makeup?  No, Rankin McMullin is a powder monkey, a boy who carries gunpowder from the hold to the guns on deck.  It is the fall of 1810, and ten-year-old Rankin, soon to be eleven, lives in Sackets Harbor, NY, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, with his Pa, a farmer, Ma, and older brother Will.  Hearing rumors of a coming war with England, Rankin desperately wants to join the crew of the U. S. Brig Oneida which has been sent to protect Sackets Harbor from an invasion by the British.  His wish is to help fight the British and end the unjust laws which force New York farmers to smuggle their potash across the lake in order to survive, as his father used to do. 

     Will signs up as an armourer, and Captain Woolsey agrees to take on Rankin as a powder monkey.  The new crew spends a year training and learning the ropes before war is declared against England.  When that finally occurs, will the British attack Sackets Harbor?  If they do, what will happen?  Who will win the battle?  In contrast to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and even World War II, there is very little good children’s literature about the War of 1812.  Although Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812 is a work of fiction with invented dialogue added to dramatize the action, the historical events portrayed and the persons named are real.  The book is made more realistic by the inclusion of obscure, early nineteenth century nautical terms like “binnacle” and “carronade.” 

     A glossary of definitions in the back, an Afterword containing further explanation about the battle, and a time line of historical events, all will increase the educational value of this exciting story.  The First Battle of Sackets Harbor occurred on July 19, 1812.  Youngsters will learn a lot about the background of reasons and events leading up to the war.  Aside from a few common euphemisms and references to rum, I am sorry to report that Will uses some bad language, namely forms of the “d” word a couple of times.  However, if you are looking for a tale of adventure which will bring the War of 1812 to life for middle grade readers through the eyes of a young boy eager to help in the fight, you’ll find it here.

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