A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ashes is the final book in Laurie Halse Anderson's The Seeds of America trilogy about the American Revolution. Violence is mostly from military action. Blood, injuries, and the horrors of war are occasionally mentioned but aren't gory or described in detail. Characters are in peril, either from battle or from being returned to slavery. There's one kiss, and feelings of attraction and affection are mentioned. It has a lot of educational value, especially in lesser-known aspects of the Revolutionary War, such as women's roles alongside armies, and government policies and promises about freedom for former enslaved people who served in the war. Isabel and Curzon struggle with choosing sides and maintaining their friendship when they disagree about what to do. Overall, the messages are wary but hopeful about a better future for a brand-new country and for Isabel and Curzon to be able to live in freedom and without fear.
What's the story?
In ASHES: THE SEEDS OF AMERICA TRILOGY, BOOK 3, Isabel returns as narrator. Now 17, she and Curzon, 19, are near the end of their long walk south to find Isabel's little sister, Ruth, who was taken away from Isabel five years ago. Isabel doesn't exactly find what she expects and decides to return home to Rhode Island, where she hopes to buy her own farm and live in freedom. The journey back north finds them right in the middle of the 1781 siege of Yorktown by the Colonial army. Curzon remains loyal to the revolutionary cause, determined that people fighting for freedom are a better bet than the promises of freedom the British army offers. Isabel doesn't think either side cares about people who look like her and would rather leave the whole mess alone. Can their friendship endure if they choose different sides? What good can come from planting the "seeds of America" when you don't know what will grow?
Is it any good?
Laurie Halse Anderson's riveting trilogy comes to a gripping conclusion that's as hopeful and frightening as the end of the Revolutionary War must have been to those who lived through it. Isabel returns to narrate the last installment of The Seeds of America trilogy, and she's admirable and relatable as a young woman struggling to find her place in strange, new circumstances, where nothing is guaranteed and nothing can be taken for granted -- not even bonds of family, love, and friendship.
Tweens and middle schoolers will relate to messages about knowing how and when to choose a side, or when to follow your own path, and about how to open yourself up to the risks that come with loving someone. The plot keeps the pages turning, and the story is richly embroidered with fascinating details about both everyday life and the larger events of the Revolutionary War as it comes to an end. There's also plenty of food for thought about slavery's effect on the very beginnings of the United States, and kids can be encouraged to think about how those beginnings continue to reverberate today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about choosing sides in Ashes. Both the British and the colonists promised freedom to former enslaved people who fought for them. Why does Curzon believe the colonials? Why doesn't Isabel believe either?
Did you read the first two books in the trilogy? Is this how you thought the story would end? Which book did you like best, and why?
Why is this book called Ashes? What do ashes make you think of?
- Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: October 4, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 5, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love history and the American Revolution
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