cover image Crossing the Delaware: A History in Many Voices

Crossing the Delaware: A History in Many Voices

Louise Peacock. Atheneum Books, $17 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80994-1

This picture-book presentation spells out events leading up to the decisive battle in the American Revolution. In this first book for Peacock, the account emerges through several perspectives: on the left of each spread, a present-day narrator traces Washington's footsteps from the House of Decisions on the bank of the Delaware River to the battle site on the opposite shore in Trenton, N.J.; on the right, a fictional enlisted soldier, Henry, writes letters to his sweetheart, alongside excerpts from letters written by actual enlisted men and leaders. Occasionally, the rigid design trips up the flow (as when Henry's letters home continue onto the next spread), but the mix of viewpoints offers a well-balanced view of each new development. The authentic historic voices deliver the most impact, but the other narrative streams place them in context. With smooth pacing, Peacock clearly depicts the odds stacked against the ill-clad and ill-equipped American farmers who came up against the well-outfitted Hessian mercenaries. Krudop (Black Whiteness) adheres to a wintry palette of blues, grays and browns in his full-page and vignette oil paintings, effectively capturing the broken spirit of the men and Washington's lonely leadership. One especially dramatic illustration shows the general standing guard on the bank of the Delaware in the snow and sleet to ensure the safety of each crossing vessel. An afterword placing the events described here in relation to the end of the Revolution would have been helpful; period black-and-white engravings and lithographs round out this animated approach to a crucial moment in American history. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)