Forge

Common Sense Media says

Brutal yet educational depiction of slavery and wartime.

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Fictional characters are weaved through real historical events and places: Readers get a close look at both the Revolutionary War and at the harsh realities of slavery. The publisher's reading guide can help kids and teens delve more deeply into the book's plot.

Positive messages

Kids will get a sense of the incredible difficulties American soldiers
faced at Valley Forge, and the even more difficult path for African
Americans, both free and enslaved, who served in the military. Kids
will also learn that although the soldiers dealt with unimaginable
hardship, they continued to serve their country for the cause of
freedom.

Positive role models

Curzon retains dignity, integrity, and will in the face of constant misfortune.

Violence

There is intense violence in this book, but it is integral to the subject matter: A young boy is whipped. Soldiers kill one another. Men are hung and beaten to unconsciousness. People are hit, stabbed, and killed.  There is a subtle reference to a woman slave being "hurt" by one of her owners, which readers may interpret as being raped or abused.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

An antagonist uses the word "negar" against the protagonist.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults partake in liquor and pipes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a true-to-life book about the harsh reality of wartime and slavery. The protagonist, a slave, is abused and beaten, suffers intolerable conditions in the army, and is treated as less than human time and time again. Yet the violence and harshness exist within a historical context, and nothing is gratuitous. In fact, the ability of the main character to persist against constant opposition is ultimately uplifting, and rewarded.

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What's the story?

This sequel to Chains shifts the perspective from Isabel, a female slave, to Curzon, a male slave, and follows his story as he escapes from a military prison, inadvertently re-enlists in the army during the American Revolution, suffers inhumane conditions at the Valley Forge encampment, and is recaptured by his vicious old master. It also reunites Isabel and Curzon and tells the story of what ultimately happens to them. The fictional characters are weaved through real historical events and places.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Forge is a realistic depiction of slavery and wartime in 18th century America. At the same time, it tells the story of how a person can retain his dignity, integrity, and will in the face of constant misfortune. "Tho' I stood in rags and upon frozen feet, I felt much more a man than he," says the main character of his master. It also tells of how true love can surmount many an obstacle. Kids will get a sense of the incredible difficulties American soldiers faced at Valley Forge, and the even more difficult path for African Americans, both free and enslaved, who served in the military. Kids will also learn that although the soldiers dealt with unimaginable hardship, they continued to serve their country for the cause of freedom.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about historical fiction. Why is it important to read stories about events that happened in the past? Is it easier for you to remember history when you read the facts -- or when you read an invented story, like Curzon's? Did you take a look at the appendix in the back of the book that provided the actual history?

  • This book is part of a series that began with the book Chains. Were you disappointed that it had a new protagonist, instead of returning to Isabel? Why do you think the author chose to write from Curzon's point of view this time? What will she do with the next (and final) installment?

Book details

Author:Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre:Literary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:October 19, 2010
Number of pages:295
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 15

This review of Forge was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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