Thursday, March 10, 2016

Patriots, Redcoats & Spies (Book Review)

Several years ago our homeschool group had a guest speaker:  author Robert J. Skead.  He spoke to the kids about writing, autographed some books, and really encouraged reading as well as writing.  Both students and parents were blessed by his visit.

Recently I found out that he--with his father, Robert A. Skead--has written a couple of new books, which are historical fiction for kids.  The books are set during the American Revolution, on the East Coast.  I had the opportunity to read and review them, at no cost to me.

First in the series is Patriots, Redcoats & Spies.  The main characters are 14-year-old twins, John and Ambrose Clark, who are drawn into delivering a secret message to General George Washington when their father is shot.  As you might expect, travel from Connecticut to New Jersey--for two young teens, in 1777, with hostility between patriots and Brits, patriots and loyalists--is filled with challenges and obstacles.  Not the least of these obstacles is being followed by the man who shot their father.  The reader gets to accompany the twins on their adventures (but without being chased and shot at!).

The second book I read was a sequel, Submarines, Secrets & a Daring Rescue.  In this story John and Ambrose, now 15 years old, are tasked with helping to transport gunpowder to the patriots.  Like the first, this mission requires overcoming many challenges.  They have to man one of the first submarines (you may have heard of the Turtle) and to attempt a prison break to rescue their older brother.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books!  A few highlights for me:
  • The plots are fast-paced, perfect for kids who like action.
  • The stories are based on fact, but obviously include some creative elements.  I love that the author includes an appendix that separates the facts from the creative changes.
  • Other appendices offer discussion questions, short biographies of several historical figures who appear in the book, a glossary, and the text of the historical letters described.
  • The writing style isn't simplified:  the authors use strong verbs and well-chosen descriptive words.  Every so often you'll encounter a higher-level word for which a younger child might need a definition.  (My personal belief is that this is one way that reading helps kids increase vocabulary.  Here it's present but not so concentrated that it's a distraction.)
  • Both books are free of anything offensive, unless you place occasional references to Providence and God in that category or if, you know, you would have sided with the Brits during the war.
I highly recommend both Patriots, Redcoats & Spies and Submarines, Secrets & a Daring Rescue.  It's hard for me to say, but I'd think they'd be best as read-alouds for kids from age four or five, independent reading for upper elementary and middle school.  I wouldn't give an upper age limit though, because I am ... old enough to have an 18-year-old son ... and I enjoyed the books very much.

For more information on author Robert Skead, click on his name to go to his website.  For more information on the books, and to read samples, click on the titles above or the images below.

Disclosure:  All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.  If you click through and complete a purchase, I will receive a small commission.  Thank you!


  1. Ha. Broxton would probably like these... We went to a book sale (for the library) and he decided he wanted "ALL THE HISTORY BOOKS" that they had. Needless to say, we ended up with an assortment of books, but for only $13, I could not complain.


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