A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
In 1776, at age 12, Sophia sees the Revolutionary spy Nathan Hale hanged, and the horror of the event profoundly affects her life and the choices she makes. Her direct involvement in the events that lead up to preventing Benedict Arnold's betrayal of the American patriots will make this important part of American history seem real for readers. The novel is methodically researched. "Beyond Sophia and her family, every character in this book is real," Avi states in his author's note. A glossary of 18th century words (for example, "bosky" meant "tipsy") is included in the back.
Although Sophia's War is clearly on the side of the American patriots trying to wrest their country from British rule, the war is not glamorized and prison scenes are offered up in gruesome detail. The message that it's important to stand up for your principles, no matter how difficult or dangerous, is underscored in various ways, from Nathan Hale's hanging, to British soldier John André's acceptance of his fate, to Sophia's own difficult choices.
Positive Role Models
Sophia's an intelligent, brave girl willing to do whatever it takes to see that justice is served. When her soldier brother is imprisoned by the British, she does everything she can to ease his situation. In her quest to bring British spy John André to justice, she vacillates between her schoolgirl crush on him and her desire to protect her country, but she is scrupulously honest with herself and ultimately comes to the right decision. Sophia does not take her duties as a spy against the British lightly, and frequently checks herself to make sure her motives are pure. She's also honest with her parents about her spying.
Violence & Scariness
The book opens with a hanging, Sophia's father is wounded by British soldiers, and the effects of war surround Sophia in the town of Manhattan, where she lives. When she visits her brother in prison, the crowding, misery, and neglect of the prisoners is described in detail (according to the Author's Note, more American soldiers died in British prisons than on the battlefield during the war). Still, though these horrors are conveyed, they are not described in gratuitous detail.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sophia's War by Newbery Award-winning author Avi is a historical novel set during the American Revolutionary War and involves Benedict Arnold's betrayal. The focus is on 12-year-old Sophia's resolve to help bring the war to a close by spying for the American side. She watches a hanging in the first chapter, a character is shot by British soldiers, and another dies due to the deplorable conditions of the British prisons. It's an absorbing novel that makes history come alive. But the old-fashioned tone of the writing may prove somewhat difficult for readers inexperienced with historical fiction.
Is It Any Good?
In Avi's SOPHIA'S WAR: A TALE OF THE REVOLUTION, Sophia's narrative voice and language are authentic to the times, so the writing can seem somewhat stiff and dry. Sophia spends much of the first part of the book pining over John André, the British soldier who lives in her family's home, but Sophia herself is a compelling character, and the historical events she sees and participates in make the story move quickly, especially during the climactic chapters when Sophia sets off on a journey across New York to prevent Benedict Arnold's betrayal of his country. Although Arnold may be known to young readers by name, this fictionalized account of how he conspired with the British and almost surrendered West Point to them will make this period of history come alive.
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