Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains: How does a 13-year-old enslaved girl navigate the American Revolution and find her freedom? This beautifully researched and written novel, part of the excellent “Seeds of America” trilogy, explores questions of loyalty, loss, and liberty in a New York City swarming with spies. As a historian, I love the opening line: “The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up.”
Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond: This fascinating story harkens waaaay back to 17th-century New England, but that history was still fresh in the minds of revolutionary colonists. I read this book on repeat every summer of junior high, marveling at so many tales told in one fast-paced novel. Heroine Kit Tyler weathers the adventure of English immigration from Barbados to Connecticut, endures the political echoes of witchcraft, and boldly defies the Puritan patriarchy.
Ann Rinaldi, The Secret of Sarah Revere: Paul may be the Revere who stars in most stories of the American Revolution. Here, the spotlight shifts to his young daughter, Sarah. Her experiences of life in war-torn Boston, based on the author’s on-the-ground research, bring that long-ago world to life. At the same time, Sarah Revere gives voice to a universal question: “What matters? What people think? Or what’s true?”
Jean Lee Latham, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch: Ahoy, math and science fans! Trace the life and times of an apprentice’s rise from indentured servant to globe-trotting navigator. The Age of Revolutions ushered in a new era of scientific progress, and Bowditch’s calculations and inventions helped to change—and connect—our world.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve, Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition: A brilliant and deeply researched history of the life, times, and daring journey of Ona Judge, who was enslaved to the first president’s family. Her saga, told here with deftness and historical depth, illustrates the paradox of slavery and liberty that defined early America in the years before and after independence.
Sara Georgini, Ph.D., is the Series Editor for The Papers of John Adams, part of The Adams Papers editorial project based at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Sara is the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), and she writes about early American history for Smithsonian. Follow her on Twitter: @sarageorgini