• Happy birthday Jamie Gilson (Thirteen Ways to Sink a Sub).
  • It’s the birth date of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), The House of the Seven Gables.
  • In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed. Read The Signers: The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
  • Other notable Independence Days include: 1826 – The fifteenth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing, former U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die. 1884 – Statue of Liberty presented to U.S. by France 1976 – United States Bicentennial

Today marks American Independence Day, the Fourth of July, a time of parades, firecrackers, and outdoor picnics. But every time the Fourth of July comes around, I wonder how much children think about the reason for this holiday. If they don’t, how do we inform them about the American Revolution?

Our book of the day, Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Sherwood Ring, combines a dollop of history with a great deal of romance. History, ghosts, spies, ciphers, and love have been served up in a light soufflé of a novel that will keep young readers ages ten through fourteen reading breathlessly to find out what happens next.

Peggy Grahame, who has just become an orphan, arrives at the ancestral estate of her family, Rest-and-be-Thankful, and falls under the care of her eccentric uncle Enos.  Extremely lonely, without friends or particular purpose, Peggy is delighted when the ghosts of her ancestors want to keep her company. Four of them alternate telling her their story during the American Revolution. Barbara Grahame narrates how she fell under the spell of a British spy, Peaceable Drummond Sherwood. Barbara’s brother Dick, a Captain in the American Army, explains how he had been unsuccessfully attempting to capture Peaceable under orders from General George Washington. Eleanor Shipley reveals how Dick finally succeeds in foiling the brilliant British saboteur.

In the meantime Peggy finds some romance herself with a British scholar, and three happy couples come together by the end of the novel. Too bad they can’t have a triple wedding—because four of them are ghosts! The story is played out in Orange Country, New York, in the Hudson Valley, a site of shifting allegiances during the Revolution. Although the characters have been invented by Pope, the nature of the guerilla warfare in that part of the country has been brilliantly captured. In tone, the book comes as close to Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel as any volume created for children.

After reading this book, children have consistently said, “I’d like to learn more about the American Revolution.” Now that is a triumph for any writer. But then one would expect the unexpected from an author who taught English at Mills College and was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

First published in 1958, The Sherwood Ring is, unfortunately, not as well-known as it should be. If you have missed this delicious book, I hope you declare independence from everything else today besides reading. Happy Independence Day!

Here’s a passage from The Sherwood Ring:

I went on sitting on the rock and worked it all out step by step. The scrap of tartan was a signal. A man who had been told to watch for it could slip quietly off the road as he passed and make his way up the blazed trail to the little clearing. There he would find what was actually an excellent relief map showing him that he was to go on to Duck’s Head Lake. The mark of the signet ring in the mud indicated the exact spot where he was to look for Peaceable Sherwood.

And how beautifully simple the whole thing was!

Originally posted July 4, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Colonial America, Ghosts, History
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Sherwood Ring


  1. G. Perry says:

    Now this sounds like a treat!

    I can relate to being orphaned and subsequently lonely through most of childhood, and what freedom from that is worth. I also wish children could all be taken through Boston and stood in front of all the history they’ve only read about. So much is taken for granted about our independence and often little understood. It’s one thing to hear about it, and dramatically different thing to walk the Freedom Trail, and have a child say something like “Oh my gosh. It’s real!”

    You thought you knew it in your mind, but when you see it, you become part of it for life.

    Go to sleep tonight thanking the universe Boston, and this web site, stands.

  2. Anita says:

    Gordon: Thanks for the comments. Yes, I am grateful today for Boston — and for the American Revolution. Anita

  3. McCourt says:

    Once again another book I seemed to have missed! My daughter who loves historical fiction will surely enjoy this one. I will add it to our summer reading list. Thanks and Happy 4th!

  4. Joanne Toft says:

    Thanks so much – one I don’t know but will look for when the library opens tomorrow. Hope you are all enjoying the 4th!

  5. Anita says:

    Happy 4th Joanne and McCourt. Many have missed this gem — but I am glad that you have now found it.

  6. charlotet says:

    I came late to this, reading it for the first tme only a few months ago, but it was lovely fun!

  7. I did not know about this one but will check it out at the library tomorrow. Thanks for posting, Anita. My all-time favorite historical novel about the American Revolution is JOHNNY TREMAIN. I have a copy of the 23rd printing with Lynd Ward’s beautiful wraparound cover and endpaper map. It resides on my writing desk at all times. Maybe I’m about to find another favorite!

  8. Anita says:

    Janice: Well, I agree about Johnny Tremain. But there is a lot of richness to be found in The Sherwood Ring.

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