Illustrated by Robert Papp
St. Michael's, Maryland, also known as, "The Town that Fooled the British," is artistically documented in the Papp's picture book.
The story centers around Henry Middle and his family in the summer of 1813, at the height of the War of 1812. The British were targeting the Chesapeake Bay. On news that the British would soon be coming to St. Michael's, Henry's father suits up and grabs his musket. But, can the town's militia defeat the powerful British navy fleet?
"Henry imagined British soldiers foraging through their garden, taking what they pleased. He refused to think about what could happen to his house and to the room he had always shared with his sister. Beneath the darkening skies, some of Henry's fear was replaced with anger."
At home with his mother and sister, Henry insisted to his mother that they do something. She sends him off with two lanterns. Thrust into the middle of the action, Henry searches for his father among the men ready to fight off the British. As the Royal Navy creeped up the upon the tiny shipbuilding town, the men devise a plan hang lanterns in trees, ships, and houses to give the allusion that the town was destroyed. Although the British did fire upon the town but a couple of times, St. Michael's was spared the destruction it would have faced.
Husband and wife team, Lisa and Robert Papp demonstrate that working together as a couple can actually produce a genuinely solid product. (Unlike my parents, who have worked together for almost forty-years and still instill on fighting over petty work details!) On his website, Robert writes that, "Lisa has fashioned a wonderfully exciting adventure about a small seaside town threatened during the War Of 1812, clinging to hope because of the very big idea belonging to a small boy." And it is true! The thrilling narrative is both captivating and informative.
At the end of the book, Lisa Papp writes: "In telling this small part of a larger story, I hope to spark an interest in a much-overlooked part of our country's heroic beginnings." I believe that she has accomplished that goal.
Robert Papp's illustrations are breathtaking and add so much to the narrative. A mix of bright and dark colors are illuminated on the page. This historical fiction picture book is a wonderful introduction to the War of 1812. I feel that third, fourth, and fifth graders would appreciate the awesome illustrations, be mesmerized by the story, and learn something about America's past from this book!
Good resources for teacher's using The Town that Fooled the British in the classroom