The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot To Kill George Washington

Roaring Brook. Jan. 2020. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250244833.
Gr 5-8–During the year between Washington’s appointment as commander of the Continental Army and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the young general matured rapidly from a stately landowner and former soldier to the revered leader of a ragtag and still unproven military force. Meltzer and Mensch, in this young reader’s edition of their best-selling book, trace a shadowy plot that may have originated with New York’s royal governor, William Tryon. The narrative shifts between various cities and jumps forward and backward in time. Context is provided and gaps in understanding are filled, though the overall arc of the story is maintained. The sometimes disorienting structure contributes to the portrayal of constantly shifting allegiances and intrigue: “Intelligence. Cunning. Secrecy. These are the tools of war.” The text has few illustrations and no sidebars or graphic elements to break up long blocks of text, making it more suitable for stronger readers. The images included, however, support the narrative and typically include substantial captions. Chapters are mostly short, and the language is simple and clear. A lengthy bibliography, including references to many primary sources, as well as 30 pages of detailed source notes, organized by chapter and page number, conclude the volume.
VERDICT This title, amply researched, well documented, and as engagingly written as a spy thriller, is highly recommended for middle grade libraries.

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