Book Review: Washington City Is Burning

Washington City Is Burning, winner of the 1997 Carl Sandburg Award, is a wonderful story by respected author and multiple award winner Harriette Gillem Robinet. I recommend it for any classroom, but particularly if you study American history.

The focus, of course, is the British invasion of Washington City (now Washington, D.C) in the War of 1812. Tremendous extra value is added by telling the story from the point of view of Virginia, an enslaved girl. Dolley Madison saving the portrait of George Washington figures in the story, but that’s really just the beginning.

The strongest storyline is about slavery in our nation’s capital. To me, it was much more interesting than the actual invasion when the British soldiers burned Washington City (although that is well told, too.)

Did you know there were slave auctions just blocks away from the White House? Wait until you read about the suffering Virginia endured to save her fellow slaves—even before she became a house slave at the White House, the central setting of the book.  (Don’t worry, it’s not too much for your students.) There is an exciting sequence wherein Virginia rescues slaves that are to be sold at auction. Her bravery is stunning and humbling. Could you or I have done what she did?

I hope you read and enjoy Washington City Is Burning. I think it is Newbery Medal quality. I wish it had been around when I was a kid, but I will content myself with sharing this book with today’s children.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 21, 2012

 

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