The other day, I walked into my son’s room to see him reading a book titled The Donner Dinner Party . I laughed out loud at the absurdity of this title, and then took a closer look to make sure it was something I was okay with my 4th grader reading. This book is part of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. Each title tackles a different historical event and is told by the infamous Revolutionary War spy, Nathan Hale. These graphic novels use comic book style panels to tell the stories.
After reading some other titles in the series with my son, I realized they are fantastic. The graphics really help bolster the stories. In One Dead Spy , which is about the Revolutionary War, there is a map showing just how outnumbered the Americans were and how shocking their victories were. In Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood , the author uses an illustration to describe the causes of World War I with different images and symbols to represent different elements. It’s hugely effective. I remember learning about World War I in school and being confused about what started the war in the first place, and I feel like this book really explains it with few words and excellent illustrations.
The topics covered in this series are often intense and scary, so they may not be best for more sensitive readers. However, the author does a good job of balancing the harsher material with light hearted commentary from the narrators so the narrative doesn’t get too dark. The narrators have hilarious asides and also ask questions about the events that kids themselves might ask. (Where’s that? Who’s that? When’s this?)
Some of the other titles include Alamo All-Stars about the Battle of The Alamo, Big Bad Ironclad about the Civil War, and Lafayette, which is another Revolutionary War tale. With the still growing popularity of the musical Hamilton, I suspect the Revolutionary War tales will be especially popular. These books also provide a great jumping off point for reading more historical fiction or checking out some historical nonfiction books. If you enjoy your historical fiction with a side of sarcastic humor, this is the series for you.