Recommended for ages 8-13
Colonial spy Nathan Hale is sentenced to death by hanging – but WAIT! He’s got stories to tell! His executioner and the British soldier standing guard are intrigued. Off he goes into yet another Hazardous Tale from history, this time, about the infamous Donner Party.
You’ve heard of the Donner Party, if only as a horrific joke. During the Westward Expanion, they were a group of pioneers headed for California who got caught in the brutal winter of 1846 and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Nathan Hale’s book tells the story of the Donner-Reed party, focusing primarily on James Reed, whose “shortcut” caused the doomed wagon train to stray off course into brutal territory.
Written as a graphic novel, this book is a great read for middle schoolers and even the reluctant high schooler. The story cuts between Nathan Hale, the British soldier and the executioner as Hale tells the story, and the story of the Donner-Reed party. The characters are detailed, and kids will love the executioner, who really, REALLY doesn’t want to hear bad news about any of the animals in the story. There are well-drawn diagrams and graphics teaching readers about the members of the party, maps of the territory traveled, and informational bits that enhance the story for all.
Hale doesn’t shy away from the more brutal aspects of this story, but he doesn’t glorify them, either. He presents the facts, even illustrating a specter of death coming for the travelers, with their names, as they pass away, listed on Death’s cloak.
This was my first Hazardous Tale from Mr. Hale, but it certainly won’t be my last. Stock this book in your bookshelves, teachers and parents, and watch kids scramble to learn about history.
Mr. Hale’s website offers information about his other books, his blog (which includes sneak peeks at his artwork for future books!), and a section dedicated to Correction Baby, who helps edit all of his books. Check it out!