cover image Jordan Freeman Was My Friend

Jordan Freeman Was My Friend

Richard White. Four Walls Eight Windows, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-941423-73-1

The massacre at Groton, Conn., in 1781, when Benedict Arnold's troops decimated the Revolutionary militia, provides the background for this slender, affecting historical novel. Most of the characters are based on real people, and the language and background details are rendered with spare authenticity. Reminiscent of The Hessian and Johnny Tremain , the tale is narrated by 12-year-old Billy Latham. Billy first describes his hardworking but happy boyhood and his friendship with freed slave Jordan Freeman, who comes into Billy's life when he saves the boy from a marauding bull. Freeman is a hired man to Colonel William Ledyard, who commands the troops building Fort Griswold. Billy becomes a water boy at the fort; as a witness to the massacre, he sees the men, including Jordan and his Indian friend Tom Wansuc, fight bravely, with tragic outcomes for most. The language is deliberately simple and the morals spelled out plainly: bigotry is evil, loyalty to family, friends and country is the highest virtue. Young-adult readers are the obvious audience for this remnant of American history illuminated earnestly but without subtlety by White, whose previous novel, Mister Grey , was nominated for a Golden Spur award. (Apr.)