A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Lee Bennett Hopkins (Amazing Faces) and Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Genevieve Foster (1893-1979), George Washingtonâ€™s World; Marguerite Henry (1902-1997), Misty of Chincoteague, Justin Morgan Had a Horse; Eudora Welty (1909-2001), The Shoe Bird; Erik Haugaard (1923-2009), The Samuraiâ€™s Tale; and Jon Stone (1931-1977) The Monster at the End of This Book.
- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), known as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the fledgling the young United States, was also born on this day. Then in 1943, the 200th anniversary of his birthday, the Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. You will not be surprised to learn it is Thomas Jefferson Day. Read Thomas Jefferson by Cheryl Harness.
On April 13, 1865, the city of Washington, D.C., celebrated the end of the Civil War by illuminating the city. Both public and private building glowed from candlelight, torches, gaslightâ€”even fireworks. Many thought it the most beautiful night ever experienced in the nationâ€™s capital. But April 14 would be one of worst days in the history of the country.
Every now and then, an author of a book for adults adapts that work into an important book for young readers, just as John Fitzgerald Kennedy did for Profiles in Courage. James L. Swanson revised his bestselling novel Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincolnâ€™s Killer to create Chasing Lincolnâ€™s Killer, a book that reads like a thriller and works perfectly for ten- to sixteen-year-olds.
In a page-turning, exciting narrative he brings readers to the events of 1865 that preceded the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Readers watch John Wilkes Booth, hour by hour, plot the assassination of Lincoln, the attack on the secretary of state, and the attempted murder of the vice president, Andrew Johnson. They meet his partners in crimeâ€”Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt. And then they watch in detail as Booth pulls off his own part of the master plan before the rest of the events start to go awryâ€”including the attack on the secretary of state. Booth and his coÂ¬conspirators then escape from Washington and those pursuing them. A twelve-day manhunt ensues, which finally ends in Boothâ€™s death and the capture of his team.
Even though the outcome is known, readers breathlessly follow the events, watching how ideology played itself out in the days following the surrender of Lee to Grant. Not everyone who helped Booth believed in the Lost Cause of the South; many struggled with the possible danger to themselves and to their families. Some helped gladly, knowing the consequences. Swanson allows readers to understand why the events happened, but spends almost all of his text on exact details of how events transpired in the days after the assassination. His scenes are so well written that readers feel they are actually traveling along with Booth, desperately trying to get deep into the South for safety. After reading the book, I put on my â€śmust doâ€ť list the twelve-hour bus tour organized by the Surratt House Museum that follows Boothâ€™s escape route.
For those hunting for material for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War orÂ a book that can engage young people in history, Chasing Lincolnâ€™s Killer provides action, true crime, and suspense. I remember as a young reader gobbling up Jim Bishopâ€™s The Day Lincoln Was Shot. Many will have the same reaction to this book. In Chasing Lincolnâ€™s Killer, Swanson shows why history, told as a story, makes the most compelling reading of all.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Chasing Lincolnâ€™s Killer:
From the shadows, Powell and Herold watched Sewardâ€™s doctors leave. The house was quiet now. They watched the gaslights go dim in several rooms, indicating that the occupants were settling in for the night. Powell handed his horse to Herold and walked across the street to the secretaryâ€™s front door. He rang the bell. Herold scanned up and down the block as he stood watch, keeping their horses ready.
On the first floor of the house, a black servant named William Bell hurried to answer the door. Late-night callers, mostly messengers, were not unusual. There was no reason why the servant should not open that door.
Originally posted April 13, 2011. Updated for .