cover image The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre

The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre

Ann Rinaldi. Harcourt Children's Books, $13 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200343-2

Historical events aren't as neat and tidy as they appear in history books, nor are they dissimilar from modern happenings (i.e., the Rodney King case), as Rinaldi ( A Break with Charity ) ably demonstrates in this painstakingly researched tale told by a young servant in colonial Boston. Rachel is 14, bound as a nursemaid to the children of John and Abigail Adams, at whose house she sees many of the town's ``movers and shakers'' (one of the book's few faults is its jarringly anachronistic language). When British troops are sent to Boston to keep order, Rachel--despite her increasingly anti-Royalist sentiments--takes pity on Matthew Kilroy, the young sentry posted at the Adamses' door. Their relationship gradually blossoms, but Rachel, who has embarked on an ambitious program to educate herself and who rightly fears ``getting into circumstances,'' refuses to demonstrate her affection in more than verbal terms. Lonely, frustrated, underpaid and reviled by the citizenry he was sent to protect, Matthew explodes during a riot on March 5, 1770, after which he and his fellows are tried for murder and manslaughter in the deaths of five colonialists. How Rachel acts according to her newly awakened social conscience and sense of self-worth makes for engrossing and educational reading. However, readers may object to Rachel's sense of guilt over Matthew's sexual frustration, and to her pronouncements on ``good breeding.'' Ages 10-up. (Nov.)