Friday, May 6, 2016

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor - Nathan Hale

Summary: Araminta Ross was born a slave in Delaware in the early 19th century. Slavery meant that her family could be ripped apart at any time, and that she could be put to work in dangerous places and for abusive people. But north of the Mason-Dixon line, slavery was illegal. If she could run away and make it north without being caught or killed, she’d be free. Facing enormous danger, Araminta made it, and once free, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Tubman spent the rest of her life helping slaves run away like she did, every time taking her life in her hands. Nathan Hale tells her incredible true-life story with the humor and sensitivity he’s shown in every one of the Hazardous Tales—perfect for reluctant readers and classroom discussions. (Image and summary from

Review: I struggle with enjoying books that are biographies, history, and non-fiction in general.  Unless, of course, they have lots of pictures and make non-fiction fun and accessible.  Nathan Hale is a genius in this department.

While this is the fifth book in the series, you do not have to have read the other books to understand it, other than there are three characters that carry over in every book: Nathan Hale (not the author, but a Revolutionary War spy), a British officer, and a hangman.  Taking a twist on history, Nathan Hale (the spy, not the author) is swallowed by a US history book before he is to be hanged.  When the book spits him back out, he takes Scheherazade-like action to delay his hanging by telling the hangman and the officer about what will happen in the future.

This particular tale introduces us to Araminta 'Minty' Ross (better known as Harriet Tubman).  I loved learning about her history, about her escape to freedom, and then her grit and determination to keep returning to the danger to save her family and other slaves.  I loved how she would put herself into harm's way to make sure others had what she had gained and what they deserved, freedom, and how she was clever and steadfast, and brought that gift to so many, becoming the Moses of her people.

What I love about these books is that while they teach you history with a humorous twist, they are also not afraid to tell the truth.  Slavery is a huge scar on American history, and Hale makes it known.  Terrible things happen in history, and ordinary people rise to meet them.

The humor comes mainly from the British officer and the hangman (my personal favorite), as they remark on what is happening in the story.  They bring a lighter side to what could be a very dreary story, showing us the humor even in darkest times.  That being said, there is also humor from the historical characters themselves.  We learn that Tubman was a narcoleptic, and there's a great running gag that follows this.

The art is fantastic.  What I love about these books is they each have a specific color, and only shades of that color are used in the book, Tubman's being purple.  The action, characterization and story flows beautifully with Nathan Hale (the author, not the spy)'s artwork. One of my favorite bits of art in this tale was the representation of those hunting the slaves.  They appear as very creepy horse-riders-of-the-apocalypse-type characters, which adds a visual for the ever present danger the the slaves are constantly in.  Another favorite are Tubman's visions, which are illustrated so beautifully.  Hale will also often tell little side stories that relate to the main story as well, in this case, the tale of Tiny Frederick Douglass. (Why tiny? Because that's the only way to fit it in!)

This was probably my favorite so far of the Hazardous Tales, though I would also highly recommend the other graphic novels in this series.  Hale makes history interesting and fun for even the most reluctant readers.  Graphic novels are a good way to get reluctant readers reading, and in the case of this series, get them into history.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: This is a book that, while for children, deals with the harsh facts of slavery in America, and doesn't shy away from what really happened.

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