Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
This week, we’re studying a picture-book version of Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, beautifully illustrated by Ted Rand. It’s a prime example of a picture book intended for older readers. I wouldn’t normally have chosen to introduce it in kindergarten, but we have a Revolutionary War field trip coming up this weekend, and Alex begged.
She’s been interested in the American Revolution for some time; we’ve read a number of related books, and she’s on her second run-through of the Liberty’s Kids animated series. She already knows a fair bit of what one might want to teach a five-year-old. So I asked if there was anything in particular she wanted to learn about this week. And she told me:
1. Sybil Ludington.
2. Everything about history.
3. George Washington.
All right then.
We read Paul Revere’s Ride this morning and talked about how it fit into the context of the run-up to the Revolution: the Boston Tea Party, the blockade of Boston, the Minutemen ready to take up arms. I wasn’t sure how she’d take to the formal language of the poem, but the exciting illustrations pulled us along and I skated pretty quickly over the whole part about Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead/ In their night encampment on the hill.
We also read Sybil’s Night Ride, the story of 16-year-old Sybil Ludington’s similar feat. Alex was excited to read it, although I must say that the clunky, flat language disappointed me – particularly compared to the Longfellow.
I suggested that we compare the rides of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington. (Alex: “What does compare mean?” Me: “Say how they are the same and how they are different.”) I brought out a blank Venn diagram and showed Alex that one circle belonged to Paul and one belonged to Sybil. The place where they overlapped would have things that were true about both of them.
I thought she did a remarkable job with this activity. I helped some – mostly by bringing in some extra facts she didn’t know, such as the other riders who shared Revere’s errand and his capture by the British. But Alex did an excellent job comparing and contrasting the two stories.
We still weren’t done with the Revolution for the day. Alex asked me to read George Washington’s Breakfast, one of Jean Fritz’s wonderful books about Revolutionary War figures. This one is unusual; instead of a straight-up biography, it’s the story of a young boy’s research efforts as he tries to determine what his hero, George Washington, ate for breakfast. This book is a real period piece; research without the Internet or even computerized library catalogs! But it includes lots of colorful biographical details about Washington, and Alex loved it.
So, what did George Washington eat for breakfast? Hoecakes, apparently. “Can we make hoecakes, Mom? Can we? Can we?!”
Yes, I supposed, we could. And we did.
Hoecakes are just little patties of cornmeal, salt, and water, fried in some kind of fat. They’re reasonably tasty with butter, although I think they would’ve been better fried in bacon grease. They’re crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Pretty good, I thought. And making them was a very exciting history experience for Alex.
So, there we are. I covered Sybil Ludington and George Washington today. Looking back at Alex’s three goals, that leaves “everything about history” for Michael to cover tomorrow. I think that’s perfectly fair, don’t you?