Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Susan Reagan. Calkins Creek, 2022. 9781644720578
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Picture book biography
What did you like about the book? Prudence Wright was a spirited, independent girl growing up in colonial New England. While she learned many of the skills and crafts expected of girls of the day, she also attended school with her brothers and was increasingly aware of the injustices of King George III’s rule over the colonies. As a young married woman in Pepperell, Massachusetts, Prudence and her husband David supported the town’s membership in the growing network of the resistance, and soon became actively involved. While David drilled with the Minutemen, Prudence and some of her friends staged their own protests – burning British tea on the town common, blending their own “Liberty Tea” from garden herbs, and learning how to make or live without other British goods. As the king clamped down even further, it became harder to tell who was a patriot and who was a Tory, and Prudence was dismayed that one of her own brothers might be a Tory spy. In April of 1775, David and the other men of Pepperell left to fight in Concord, and it fell to the women of the town not only to take on the farmwork and other tasks, but also to defend the town’s bridge, a major thoroughfare between Boston and Canada. The women, dressed in their husbands’ and sons’ clothes, armed themselves with household tools and guarded that bridge, with Prudence as their captain. Two horsemen approached; one, Prudence’s brother, quickly turned away, but the other was captured and found to be a spy.
This story of the Minutewomen of Pepperell and their contribution to the Revolution, though not well-known, has been passed down through the generations of Prudence’s family and is celebrated as part of local lore. It is an important glimpse into the roles that women played during the time period, showing that they often had to step into traditional male roles while still fulfilling their own. Readers will love that aspect of the story as much as they will admire Prudence’s leadership and “spark of independence” and the way in which the women banded together. The watercolor and digital illustrations include many details that indicate the level of research done by the artist – the drab clothing colors, the household items and tools, and building styles are all perfectly represented. Thorough back matter provides further details about Prudence Wright’s life and the incident at the bridge, and includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Anything you did not like about the book? The afterword and research note are definitely geared more toward teachers and parents than the intended audience for the book itself. Perhaps incorporating a few illustrations of the artifacts that are described would make it more accessible for kids.
To whom would you recommend this book? It will be a welcome addition in classroom and school libraries where the Revolutionary War collections need refreshing and diversifying. It’s particularly appropriate for Massachusetts 3rd and 5th grade social studies teachers, as it features a local story that might be unfamiliar, and a depiction of many of the aspects of colonial life that are taught.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Biography
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: August 2, 2022