Review Detail

A spy for General Washington
(Updated: June 12, 2019)
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Ranger travels back in time via a magical first aid kit, and must stay until he figures out how to help a key figure in a historical event. This time, he is helping Isaac, a young African-American boy who was a fisherman and who gets caught up in the struggle against the British. Even though Isaac has to fight smallpox early in the book, he rallies enough to return to his unit, the Fourteenth Continental Regiment from Marblehead, Massachusetts. The cold, wet, and unpleasant conditions plaguing the military at this time are keenly felt by Isaac, but luckily, Ranger is there to stay by his side and help him out of the most dire scrapes. After being in the Hessians camp and talking to Colonel Rall, Isaac manages to get back to Washington and tell him the Hessians' plans. Washington plans an attack to occur before theirs. After a treacherous crossing of the frozen river, Isaac and Ranger are involved in the Battle of Trenton. Isaac is injured, but survives with Ranger's help. His job done, Ranger returns his humans in the present day, ready for his next adventure, Escape from the Twin Towers.
Good Points
Isaac is an interesting character with whom many young readers will identify. War is certainly uncomfortable and dangerous, but it is also interesting and exciting. The chance to travel with the army, meet General Washingon, and be involved with major battles in history will appeal to readers who want to more about history.

The notes about the Revolutionary War at the end of the book are extremely helpful, and the bibliography will entice children to find out even more about the subject covered. There are a few pictures in the notes, but the most interesting thing was reading about how Messner researched and decided how to use real events in a fictional way to make an engaging story.

Like Lauren Tarshis' I Survived Books, Messner has covered many major historical events in a way that young readers will find engaging and interesting. In addition to being fun and factual reads for elementary aged students, these books are also an excellent way to cover historical topics for older, developmentally delayed students. I often use them when 8th grade students with special needs require a fiction book on a topic that pertains to the social studies curriculum. Ranger in Time books are written on a lower Lexile level, and also aren't as gory and upsetting as some of the books for older readers.
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