A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent

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With clear language and excellent storytelling, this biography of a little-known spy during the Revolutionary War brings hidden history to life. There are so many biographies of the Founding Fathers, and even a number about Lafayette--but so few about the slaves and people of color who fought. With so little known about James Lafayette, this biography offered as much as it could without veering into speculation. Rockwells detailed yet accessible text is perfectly matched with Coopers exceptional oil paintings in this picture book biography. Using a muted color palette and done in a grainy style, the art imparts a sense of historical drama in each spread and expertly draws readers into James Lafayettes remarkable story. Rockwell wastes no words, beginning right away with General Cornwalliss defeat at the Battle of Yorktown and his discovery that a guide for the British army was in fact a double agent, a slave working as a spy for the Americans. (Rockwell discloses enough background information on the Revolutionary War to keep kids grounded.) Students will learn that although James provided an invaluable service to the Americans, he was denied his freedom after the war ended until General Lafayette intervened (back matter notes that James petitioned for his freedom on his own and was initially denied by the general assembly). In a triumphant last spread, the former spy, now James Lafayette, appears at the forefront of a landscape with bold red text proclaiming, James Lafayette was finally free. This book is listed for Grades 2-5