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Children's LiteratureChelsea House's series "Leaders of the American Revolution" includes the life of Betsy Ross (1752-1836) and the tradition (originating in Ross's family) of the Philadelphia upholsterer sewing the first national flag—Cox presents arguments both for and against its authenticity. Ross lived in a city figuring prominently in the birth of our nation and, as an upholsterer and flag-maker, might have sewed at least one of the early flags (she definitely made some naval flags). Truth or legend, her story can be useful to illuminate experiences of Philadelphia's ordinary citizens during the Revolution. Young historians will discover something of the austere Quaker way of life and religion, and find that, interestingly, Betsy had a mind of her own, marrying a non-Quaker in spite of a taboo by her church. The author takes readers through the major events of the war, often from the perspective of Philadelphians, offering lively sketches of delegates to the Continental Congress like Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and John Adams and describing hardships during the British occupation as well as the yellow fever epidemic after the war. Several sidebars present flag lore, while the pictures, though not plentiful, are reasonably interesting. Simple sentences (with some regrettable careless grammar) and large print make this volume accessible to middle readers and less sophisticated teen readers. Special features are quizzes after each chapter (not very useful), a timeline, a chronology of Ross's long life, and a bibliography of books designed mostly for young readers. 2006, Chelsea House, Ages 10 to 16.
—Barbara L. Talcroft