Saturday, September 6, 2008

Daniel Boone's Great Escape

Spradlin, Michael. Daniel Boone's great escape. 2008. Ill. by Ard Hoyt. New York: Waler & Co.

Nonfiction, particularly history, is one of my favorite genres in children's literature, so I enjoyed this little-known episode in the life of the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone's Great Escape recounts his escape from the Shawnee tribe, which had held him in friendly captivity for several months. Boone escaped to warn the settlement of Boonesborough, Kentucky (where his own family resided) of an imminent attack by the Shawnee. According to the Epilogue, Boone's own account of his journey through the wilderness, pursued by Shawnee warriors, is as follows: "On the 16th, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th, after a journey of one hundred and sixty miles, during which I had but one meal."

While Daniel Boone's heroism and bravery is the heart of the story, Spradlin makes sure to highlight the Shawnee position on the white settlements. The aggression of the Shawnee was a reaction to the murder of their chief at Fort Randolph, where he had traveled under a flag of truce to discuss broken treaties. Hoyt's pen and watercolor illustrations appear to depict both Whites and Indians in authentic dress and accoutrements. Life in the Shawnee village is shown as friendly and productive, while warriors and Boone alike are shown with the expected expressions - pride, anger, thoughtfulness, concern. It's clear that both author and illustrator have tried to take a balanced approach in this frontier tale.

The Epilogue contains detailed historical information, however, a bibliography or resource page would also have made a nice addition. This is a picture book for older readers, and as such, will probably receive limited use. It is not suitable as biographical material because it covers only four days in the life of Boone. It is equally unsuited as a balanced look at Westward expansion because of its limited scope. That being said, it is an interesting story and will hopefully find its niche.

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