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Soldier's Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson

Sheila Solomon Klass, Author . Holt/Ottaviano $17.95 (213p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8200-5

The real-life Deborah Sampson's experiences dressing as a man for two years to serve as a soldier during the Revolutionary War form the foundation of Klass's (The Uncivil War ) provocative historical novel. The story starts with a terrific hook: hospitalized with yellow fever, the soldier/narrator known as Robert Shurtliff pretends to be dead to evade examination by the nurses: “Being buried alive [was] a terrible fate, but preferable to being discovered,” claims the narrator, who has yet to disclose Shurtliff's real identity. As the grave diggers fight over Shurtliff's boots, a nurse realizes her patient is still alive, leading to a doctor's discovery that the patient is female. Bringing her to his home to recover in safety, he persuades her to write down her story. Readers then learn that Sampson was a “give-away child,” passed into indentured servitude because her mother was unable to support her. Finally freed, she still feels hampered by the stringent restrictions placed on women and begins to disguise herself as a man. At times Sampson comes across as self-absorbed; it's Klass's telling use of details that brings this story to life. Ages 12–16. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/12/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
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