During 2008-2009, I read aloud Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson to my 6th graders. Since the day I finished the book I have been desperately awaiting its sequel. I follow Laurie’s blog and reveled in the bits & pieces of the research process that she shared with her readers while writing. When I did not get an ARC of the next book at BEA, I was heartbroken. But then Abby volunteered to send me her copy after reading it. I came home from my honeymoon and was ecstatic to find Forge waiting for me on my doorstep.
Forge takes places a bit after Chains ended. This time, the story focuses on Curzon’s experiences. He and Isabel have been separated. When the book opens, Curzon is caught in the midst of a skirmish between the British and the American rebels. When he saves the life of a young American soldier he is assimilated into their unit with little thought to where he came from. Over the course of the book Curzon experiences parts of the Revolutionary War that many people are unfamiliar with- the freezing winter and food shortage at Valley Forge, the actions of slaves during the war, and daily life of those stationed at Valley Forge that fateful winter. Just when Curzon thinks his luck has run out, he is shocked to learn that Isabel isn’t as far away as he thinks. With a fantastic look at the (lack of) rights slaves had while the rest of American fought for freedom, Forge is hard to put down.
I loved, loved, loved Forge! I was a little worried that it would not stand up to the high standard set by its predecessor, especially because I loved Isabel’s voice so much. No worries- Halse Anderson immediately sweeps you into Curzon’s life and you quickly fall in love with him and his impulsiveness. Now for the bad news……I need the third book ASAP! (I tweeted Laurie Halse Anderson because I was afraid Forge was the last book. No worries- Ashes is in the research stage right now!)
Like its predecessor, Forge explores a part of the Revolutionary War that most people are unfamiliar with- the thousands of African-Americans who fought for both the British and American sides. Most students learn about the fight for freedom that our founding fathers struggled with, but very few think about the thousands of slaves who were rarely, if ever, considered. And like Chains, this is not a boring historical fiction novel. The informative prose is woven into the story so that it is a part of the story. It doesn’t feel like you are reading a dry novel just meant to teach the reader some facts. Instead, you grow to love Curzon and feel like he is a close friend.
Teachers will love the primary sources that Halse Anderson incorporates into the story. Each chapter begins with a quote from a primary source like a diary, newspaper ad, or letter. At times I skipped over the quote because I was so desperate to learn what happened to Curzon, but I always went back and read the quote later. There is also a list of questions and answers at the end, in interview format. Halse Anderson answers some questions about her research process, the real events in the story, and more.
Oh, and I think something else fantastic about Forge is that you can read it without having read Chains. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to read the first book (seriously- go order a copy RIGHT NOW!), but I think teachers who are forced to choose between them will appreciate that both can stand alone.
Forge is a MUST READ. I look forward to this book being very popular and I hope to see it on a few award lists this winter. Halse Anderson has really knocked it out of the park again!
*Thank you to Abby for sending me an ARC of Forge! :-D