Monday, December 10, 2012

One Dead Spy

This first volume of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, fittingly enough, tells the tale of Nathan Hale. It is also written and drawn by Nathan Hale. Hale was a Yankee spy during the American Revolutionary War who is probably best known for his famous last words. In this book, just before he is hanged, something magical happens, and he is given full view of American history. To stall his inevitable end he starts telling stories to a talkative hangman and a priggish British proctor, beginning here with his own. Those two make great foils for each other and for Hale as well. This situation sets up a sturdy storytelling engine, as Hale acts as Scheherezade, setting up a series of books. Its first sequel was released simultaneously, Big Bad Ironclad.

Adding to a narrative delivered in enjoyable fashion, Hale also provides copious back matter, including a reading list for future research. He also provides a section for fact-checking, run by babies(!) and a bonus story about Crispus Attucks. This book surely does not skimp on information about the people and events of this time period.

Creator Nathan Hale already has drawn two graphic novels, Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack. He has also drawn a variety of children's books, including Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody and The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas. He shares his publications, news, and fun artwork via his blog.

Reviews I have read about this book thus far have been very positive. Travis from 100 Scope Notes gushed, "Full of thrilling moments, engaging historical information, and boundless creativity, this is what graphic novel nonfiction for kids should be." Kirkus Reviews called the book, "An innovative approach to history that will have young people reading with pleasure." Brett Schenker wrote that "it’s great to be able to read something that’s entertaining for both kids and adults (and educational)!" Mike Pawuk at the School Library Journal concluded, "With Nathan, the Hangman, and the British Soldier, the mix of humor, adventure, and historical facts makes this an engaging historical series, and I can’t recommend it high enough for all libraries."

One Dead Spy is published by Amulet Books. There is a preview available at Amazon.

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