Monday, August 12, 2013

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! (2012) Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad (2012) Nathan Hale
Hardcover, 128 pages
Recommended for ages 8 and up
ISBN 9781419703959

Someone should build a statue of Nathan Hale. (I mean the author Nathan Hale, not the American Revolutionary War hero; he already has a statue.) Hale could very possibly, single-handedly, cause kids to love history. 

Seriously. I’m not joking.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is a series of books for young readers that makes history accessible and fun through the graphic novel format. The second book in the series (after Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy) finds Nathan Hale (the spy, not the author; don’t get confused) about to be hanged by the British. Apparently in the first volume (which I have not read), Hale was swallowed up by a giant history book which gave him special powers to see future historical events. To delay his execution, Hale tells his executioners that in the future, “King George’s unstoppable Navy will become totally obsolete.” His British captors, of course, don’t believe him, but demand to hear this outrageous story. So Hale (in the manner of Scheherazade) tells the tale of the Civil War ironclads the Merrimack and the Monitor. 

Using the actual characters and events (with a few liberties), Hale tells a story that is both a compelling page-turner and LOL-worthy. The book works in part because Hale’s artwork (especially his characters’ facial expressions) is clear and easy to understand, but Hale also knows when and how much humor to mix with the action scenes (which are plenty). The tale is somewhat irreverent at times, but never to the detriment of the historical narrative. 

In short, history is fun again.

After the story is finished, Hale includes biographies of the book’s characters, a timeline for the events depicted, and an impressive bibliography for kids who want to read more. 

For librarians, teachers or parents looking for books for kids who love adventure and hate to read, your prayers have been answered. Pick up a copy of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad (or One Dead Spy or the new Donner Dinner Party) immediately. And check out Hale’s other work. Very highly recommended. 


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