A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Benefits a great deal from Brad Meltzer's storytelling skills in presenting a lot of historic detail in a lively narrative that leaves the reader with a much deeper understanding of issues at play -- philosophical, political, personal, lots of mundane reality -- in days leading up to Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War. Reading level, vocabulary, and concepts may be challenging/too complex for younger readers who aren't already history buffs.
Strong messages of honor, integrity, courage, loyalty, humility, and earning respect by giving it. Also clever, resourceful thinking, and adapting to the circumstances you've got rather than the ones you wish you had.
Positive Role Models
George Washington himself has strong principles, works hard to live by them, so he's especially shocked by betrayal, greed, other human failings in those he deals with, but does not sink to their level. Showing true leadership, he makes sure all his men are safe before escaping a perilous situation himself. Some of his friends and supporters show courage, loyalty, resourcefulness -- and many British are also principled, honorable, loyal to their country. Along the way, on both sides, are quite a few thieves, forgers, assassins, and assorted lowlifes.
Violence & Scariness
Aside from actual plot to murder Washington and wreak quite a lot of other mayhem, there's a lot of violence, death, destruction, reflecting the historic events, not just in battle. For example, a public hanging the whole army is forced to watch.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The murderous plot first comes to light when a baker's former girlfriend, now a prostitute being "kept" by a married man, asks him to pass a coded message to the British and he takes it to Washington's officers instead. Much of Washington's army suffers from syphilis.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Washington is a man of strong principles and temperate habits, but to his chagrin and horror his ragtag army does a lot of drunken partying. Much of the plotting and spying takes place in taverns, alehouses, etc. People also drink wine and spirits in their homes (or on their ships). Bragging and plotting in drinking establishments proves the undoing of some people as story unfolds.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The First Conspiracy (Young Reader's Edition) is an adaptation of Brad Meltzer (Ordinary People Change the World) and Josh Mensch's bestselling history of a little-known plot that could have ended the American Revolution before it even began. It tells the story of how a displaced British governor plots from a ship in New York Harbor, aiming to kill George Washington and bring the revolt to a quick halt. As we all know, it didn't work, but despite knowing how it turns out, we get caught up in the excitement, the intrigue, and Washington's sense of betrayal as trusted friends turn against him. While the publisher rates this book for readers 9-12, the complexities of political intrigue, the many characters, the issues, and the vocabulary -- as well as the violence, including a scene where a man is hanged and the whole army is forced to watch -- make it best for a somewhat older reader. Also, the fact that the plot is discovered in a message a prostitute is trying to deliver to the British, coupled with mentions that much of Washington's army was suffering from syphilis, raises more mature issues.
Is It Any Good?
This young reader's version of the bestselling history delivers a compelling, detailed narrative of fateful events in 1776. There's plenty of plotting, intrigue, and betrayal awaiting the honorable, humble General Washington. The First Conspiracy co-authors Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch delve into the investigation with terrier-like glee, bringing the era and a raft of colorful characters (heroic and otherwise) vividly to life. But the reading level, vocabulary, and concepts may be too demanding and complex for younger readers who aren't already history buffs. And, partly because we know Washington emerged safely from all this, the frequent drumbeat of suspense-building editorial commentary (à la You won't believe what happens next ...) gets a little annoying, as the story's plenty suspenseful on its own, and full of nuanced consideration of what it was like to live through these times. But in classic Meltzer fashion, this story is a strong testimonial to personal honor, virtue, and determination as essential assets in time of trouble.
"George Washington may not have been born into nobility, but he could learn to be a gentleman; he could work hard to improve himself; he could, through his character alone, earn the respect of anyone he might meet.
"Washington learned to cling fiercely to the personal ideals of honor and integrity. This way, he had something he could rely on within himself."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.