A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent

Anne Rockwell, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4677-4933-6
Rockwell (Hey, Charleston!) delivers a striking portrait of James Lafayette, an African-American spy critical to the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Enslaved by a Virginia farmer and known only as James, he worked with the French general Marquis de Lafayette (whose surname James later adopted) in exchange for freedom. Pretending to be a runaway slave, James infiltrated British troops, and “information he passed to Lafayette allowed the colonial army to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown.” The succinct narrative explains a complicated wartime story using a conversational tone (General Lafayette is “the French general with names to spare”). Cooper’s (Ira’s Shakespeare Dream) appealing oil-and-erasure illustrations affirm his skill as a gifted portrait artist. Settings recede into the background as close-ups of James, George Washington, Charles Cornwallis, and others bring emotion to the tale, revealing feelings of dejection, pride, and determination. Final pages and an author’s note explain how James continued to fight for his freedom several years after the war and how Lafayette aided him in securing it. Ages 7–11. Author’s agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 978-1-5200-6617-2
Audio Product - 978-1-5200-6614-1
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