Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Codfish Musket, by Agnes Danforth Hewes

Oh, Agnes Danforth Hewes.  You again!  We keep running into each other here.  This novel is also illustrated by Armstrong Sperry, another old friend.

This book takes place in the young United States after the Revolution, but before we had completed westward expansion.  Dan Boit is a young man living in Boston with his elderly grandfather.  He also works part-time for a local merchant, running errands and keeping books.  It's an exciting time in his hometown of Boston; the Columbia has just returned from China.  They have discovered that seal pelts harvested on the northwest coast of the continent can be sold there at an immense profit.  Since the British have cut of many of America's trade routes, this is a very promising way to help keep the country's ports solvent.

After the death of his grandfather (and a number of other events), Dan is sent south to Washington to arrange for a shipment of arms to the shop where he works, to arm the next wave of outgoing ships (muskets being a necessary item to bring, since the Native Americans of the northwest didn't appreciate the intrusion).  He is also asked to remain there to send definitive news of whether there will be war with the French over Louisiana.  During his time there, by happenstance Dan meets President Jefferson, and becomes his secretary.  Meriwether Lewis, the previous secretary, has been sent westward on an expedition.  Dan soon becomes intimately involved in the politics of the time.

I'll admit that historical fiction of this type doesn't appeal to me, but this story was excellently written.  It was a fun adventure, and Dan grows up a lot over the course of the tale.  I also learned a lot about the early years of the United States which I had otherwise glazed over in history class!

Oh, on a side note, there are some horrific instances of racist language in this book so use it with discretion with young children.

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