Why Not, Lafayette?
Jean Fritz. Putnam Publishing Group, $17.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23411-8
With her typically light touch, Fritz (You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?) presents a brief and colorful biography of the aristocratic young Frenchman who played an integral role in the American Revolution. Bored with the leisurely life of a court nobleman and longing for glory, the 19-year-old marquis defied not only his father-in-law but his king to help the Americans in their fight for freedom. His fiery, passionate personality (as well as his much-needed money) earned him a place in the hearts of many colonists, particularly George Washington, and he won renown through several battles, including the decisive encounter at Yorktown. After the war, when Lafayette returned to France, he became embroiled in the revolutionary politics of the age, spending time in jail during the Reign of Terror despite his liberal leanings and standing up to Napoleon and, later, King Charles X when they ignored their promises to the people of France. Thanks to the dynamic portraits of military and political figures, readers with no background in French or American revolutionary history will easily make sense of the rush of battles and political wrangling described here. As usual, Fritz works in humanizing details: Washington's distaste for physical display was such that he once scolded Alexander Hamilton for playfully slapping him on the shoulder; near the end of her life, Lafayette's wife professed to be so in love with her husband that she often felt faint just looking at him. Lively, vigorous and just plain fun to read. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999