Saving the Liberty Bell

Saving the Liberty Bell

by Megan McDonald, Marsha Gray Carrington

Some tall tales are actually true. This is a grand one, told with rightful pride by a boy who was there in the city of Philadelphia in 1777 and was lucky enough to play a role in the American Revolution.
John Jacob Mickley, eleven years old, and his father were in the city when the Great Bell began ringing Brong! Brong! BRONG! from atop the State House


Some tall tales are actually true. This is a grand one, told with rightful pride by a boy who was there in the city of Philadelphia in 1777 and was lucky enough to play a role in the American Revolution.
John Jacob Mickley, eleven years old, and his father were in the city when the Great Bell began ringing Brong! Brong! BRONG! from atop the State House to warn the citizens: "Redcoats! The Redcoats are coming!"
And come the British did — with their muskets and their cannons and their will to keep the colonies for their king. Looting they came and stealing any metal they could get their hands on to melt down for the making of more weapons. And the prize above all? The Great Bell itself — metal for many a cannon!
But the clever Pensylvanians (yes, the word was spelled like that then) had other plans for keeping the Bell safe from the British.
Megan McDonald has aptly caught John Jacob's excited retelling of the story, and Marsha Gray Carrington has relished every wild and wooly moment of it in her pictures — both funny and carefully researched.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Blending bits of history and long-accepted lore into a snappy story, McDonald (Is This a House for a Hermit Crab?; the Judy Moody series) entertains readers with her imagining of the Liberty Bell's whereabouts during the American Revolution. Young John Jacob Mickley is ready to burst with excitement as he regales his younger siblings with a tale of the fateful trip he took to Philadelphia with their father. As Mickley pere and fils arrived in the city of brotherly love, warning came of the encroachment of British Redcoats led by General Howe. The rush was on to hide any sources of metal-including all the church bells in town and "the Great Bell" atop the State House (later known as the Liberty Bell). The 11-year-old and his dad, along with their wagon and horses, were pressed into duty, surreptitiously spiriting away the 2,000-plus-pound bell to a hiding place in their hometown of Northampton. McDonald's vivacious text brims with details, while keeping a brisk pace. A historical note fills in additional elements. With a keen eye, Carrington (Jake Johnson: The Story of a Mule) captures the bucolic countryside as well as prim city townhouses of 18th-century Philadelphia in her acrylic paintings. Her energetic portraits of a fretful John Jacob and his father carting the cleverly (and colorfully) concealed bell let youngsters in on the secret while also keeping them on the edge of their seats. Ages 5-8. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This account of the hiding of the Liberty Bell during the American Revolution is based on careful research (documented in the historical note at the end of the book). In dealing with the lore that surrounds this aspect of the bell's history, Megan McDonald has performed the miracle of keeping the facts fun and has created little details that make the participants in this segment of American history come to life. John Jacob Mickley's family has been given credit for providing the wagon that was used to remove the Liberty Bell from the city of Philadelphia to the safety of Allentown's Zion Reformed Church. The patriots were sorely afraid that the British would melt the bell and make more cannons so they devised the plan to hide the bell. John Jacob, Jr. was known to ride along with his father on wagon trips and was even allowed to take the reins from time to time. So McDonald uses his voice to tell of the journey and the troubles that beset the bell's rescue party. The idea that the bell was packed in straw, dirt, manure, and hay has persisted for so long that it does seem like a plausible explanation for the disguising of the bell while in transit. A lady's hoop skirt also figures in the lore, but one could suspect that it might not have been quite as humorous looking as Carrington's illustrations portray. The illustrations are wonderful reflections of the tight, sparse but informative text. The overall approach to the story is lighthearted and even handed, but children will learn a lot of information about the thinking of the times and the actual lives of the people who were so critically involved in the making of our nation. The Liberty Bell (originally known as The Great Bell) became avoice for the people and a symbol of our independence. Teachers and students alike will enjoy this approach to learning about an interesting facet of American history. Students will find the text accessible and the pictures enlightening (and sometimes simply funny). 2005, Richard Jackson Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Ages 5 to 8.
—Sheilah Egan
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-John Jacob Mickley, 11, tells his siblings about his role in hiding the Liberty Bell from the British. He describes how he and his father travel to Philadelphia to sell their farm goods. The Great Bell is ringing out its warning from the State House that the Redcoats are on their way, and everyone knows they will be looking for metal to turn into weapons. Colonel Benjamin Flower approaches the Mickleys and asks them to help spirit the Great Bell away for safekeeping. The father-son team must hide it under stinky stable straw, potato sacks, and even a woman's hoop skirt. John is certain they will run into Redcoats during the journey. And, on the third night, soldiers do find them. Fortunately, they are from General Washington's army, and they escort the wagon toward safety. A mere four miles from home, the wagon breaks down, but, with help from the locals, the bell is moved to safety and hidden beneath the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in present-day Allentown, PA. McDonald has nicely personalized an event from American history and presented it in a form reminiscent of tall tales. Carrington's acrylic paintings complement the tone of the text with their humorous, cartoonlike style. An author's note sorts out fact from fiction. A fun way to introduce the Revolutionary War.-Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 12.10(h) x 0.40(d)
AD820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Megan McDonald, beloved author of the Judy Moody books, is also a gifted storyteller. She is the author of When the Library Lights Go Out, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson; The Hinky-Pink, illustrated by Brian Floca; and the now-classic Is This a House for Hermit Crab?, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. She lives in Sebastopol, California.

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