Ages 9 and up
(Published in 2011 by Putnam Juvenile)
1. It was written by Jean Fritz, one of my favorite historical writers.I feel strongly that children need to read biographies of real people who had a hand in shaping various aspects of society and the world as we know it. They need real life examples of real people, living and dead, good and bad, to learn from. But children reading about adults can sometimes be problematic, given the duality of human nature. Even the best among us can have feet of clay, or moments of clay.
2. It is about a man who definitely deserves to not be forgotten, but is not much mentioned beyond a line or two in primary and middle school history books. Alexander Hamilton was an honest, passionate man who played an integral role in how the economic system of the United States government was set up. It's amazing to think that a man who came from such humble and illegitimate beginnings would later rise to become a powerful, influential figure in a newly emerging America, a country he adopted and for which he fought passionately.
3. I knew that Hamilton, our nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, formed the Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of our modern US Coast Guard. (A Coastie can get into real trouble for not knowing that!) And yes, there is a Coast Guard Cutter (a 378 footer) named after him.
4. I loved the cover. (Told you it was a fluff reason.)
Such is the case of Alexander Hamilton. The man is an example of honesty, hard work, determination and patriotism. But he made his mistakes. I appreciated the way Jean Fritz managed to honor Hamilton's achievements and life, while still including his weaknesses and failures. She doesn't dwell on his weaknesses, but she certainly doesn't dismiss them. She gets the information** across without overdoing the details.
**(SPOILER ALERT) For example, his illegitimacy and later his affair with a woman outside his marriage. The reason this information is included is because the repercussions of both had far-reaching consequences to him politically and morally.