From the Publisher
“Sheinkin sees Arnold as America's 'original action hero' and succeeds in writing a brilliant, fast-paced biography that reads like an adventure novel…The author's obvious mastery of his material, lively prose and abundant use of eyewitness accounts make this one of the most exciting biographies young readers will find.” STARRED, Kirkus Reviews
“American history is brought to life in this engaging story of revolution and treason… The Notorious Benedict Arnold is likely to make readers want to learn more about the American Revolution and its players, great and small.” STARRED, School Library Journal
“Several complex political, social, and military themes emerge, one of the most prominent being that within the Continental army, often simplistically depicted as single-minded patriots, beat hearts scheming with political machinations that are completely familiar today…Arnold's inexorable clash with Gates and his decision to turn traitor both chill and compel.” STARRED, Horn Book Magazine
“History junkies are in for a treat when they pick up this lively, highly readable biography of the U.S.' most vilified traitor…A worthy addition to all libraries.” Booklist
VOYA - Pam Carlson
Could anyone actually be so angry over lack of recognition for job performance that he would betray his country? Apparently, Benedict Arnold was that man. He led his troops heroically and suffered permanent injury. But Arnold's arrogance provoked many of his superiors and inspired some to spread false rumors about his methods. He was overlooked when promotion time came around. A complete lack of tact eventually cost him the support of even his long-suffering friend, George Washington. Arnold was close to bankrupt when he struck a deal with the English wherein he would take the command of the fort at West Point and then leave it defenseless, a potentially fatal blow to Americans. Instead, a series of coincidences caused the plot to be discovered. Arnold and his family relocated to England where he died in pain and disgrace in 1801. Sheinkin's writing has a contemporary feel, moving quickly from event to event. Readers almost expect a frustrated Arnold to let loose with some familiar four-letter words. The slow transformation of a fearless fighter into a resolute traitor will intrigue those who only know the end of the story. Source notes and a lengthy bibliography prove the depth of research done by Sheinkin. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
If you want to get kids to read about one of the key figures in American history, then this book about Benedict Arnold is sure to please. Born in 1741 to one of the richest families in the Northeast, Arnold was expected to become his family's first college graduate. Yellow fever and a reduced economy escalated his father's alcoholic tendencies, cutting short Arnold's education and destroying any hopes for college. Apprenticed to a relative, Arnold paid his dues and quickly began building up his own fortunes. Politics soon intervened. Long a risk-taking, attention-seeker, Arnold was quick to join the fight against England for control of the new America. Decisive, daring, and a born leader of men, Arnold led his troops in several skirmishes at Fort Ticonderoga, in Quebec, and at Valcour Island, battles which historians agree held the British at bay and contributed to America's eventual victory. Arnold, in spite of his successes on the field, could barely keep from making multiple enemies off it. Politically savvy he was not. Battles with the Continental Congress and fellow military leaders dogged his entire career, leading in part to his liaison with British officer John Andre and his eventual traitorous turn. Arnold's tale is told in short chapters, titled such that the context within the broader historical narrative is easily discerned. The story of his co-conspirator, John Andre, is interspersed throughout, giving this biography a story arc rarely found in nonfiction. Meticulously researched, this book includes many first-person accounts, giving this historical biography a very real voice. Readers are sure to love this amazing, action-packed story. Teachers and librarians are sure to embrace the incredible source notes, directing eager readers to still more historical figures that populate these pages. Highly recommended. Reviewer: Kris Sauer
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—American history is brought to life in this engaging story of revolution and treason. Most people know very little about Benedict Arnold—only that he was a traitor during the American War of Independence. Sheinkin recounts the tale of a larger-than-life persona, from his uncertain boyhood to his immense popularity as an unpredictable, yet brilliant, commander in the American army, and finally, to his end days, living in London, despised and disgraced. The story of Arnold's bravery and his rise in the esteem of the colonists is played out against the political squabbling and fears the Continental Congress had about military figures becoming too powerful and upsetting the delicate democracy they were busy creating. Through letters, journals, historic accounts, and other resources, Sheinkin keeps readers wanting to know what will happen next. Short, episodic chapters titled with relevant dates are an effective way to pace various battles—on the field and off—and understand their place in the larger picture of the war. Other key figures are well developed in the narrative. Seeing a glimpse of these personalities makes their subsequent actions believable and meaningful. The Notorious Benedict Arnold is likely to make readers want to learn more about the American Revolution and its players, great and small. Source notes at the end of the book allow them to do just that.—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI
If only Benedict Arnold had died sooner. Had he been killed at the Battle of Saratoga, he'd be one of the greatest heroes of American history, and "we'd celebrate his life as one of the best action stories we have." Instead, he survived and went on to betray the colonies and die in shame. Sheinkin sees Arnold as America's "original action hero" and succeeds in writing a brilliant, fast-paced biography that reads like an adventure novel. Opening with the hanging of Major Andre, the British officer who plotted with Arnold to turn West Point over to the British, the story sticks to the exciting illustrative scenes of Arnold's career—the invasion of Canada, assembling America's first naval fleet, the Battle of Valcour Island, the Battle of Saratoga and the plot with Andre, whose parallel narrative ends in a bungled mission, his execution and Arnold's dishonor. The author's obvious mastery of his material, lively prose and abundant use of eyewitness accounts make this one of the most exciting biographies young readers will find. (source notes, quotation notes, maps [not seen]) (Biography. 11-14)
Read an Excerpt
Clearing in the Woods
October 2, 1780
It was a beautiful place to die. The sky above the woods glowed blue, and the leaves on the trees were a riot of fall colors: sunshine yellow, campfire orange, blood red.
In a grassy clearing, a small group of American soldiers quickly built a gallows. It was a simple structure, made of two tall, forked logs stuck into the ground, with a third log laid horizontally between the forks. The soldiers tied one end of a rope to the middle of the horizontal log, letting the other end hang down. There was no platform to stand on, no trapdoor to fall through—the prisoner would have to climb onto a wagon with the rope looped around his throat. Horses would jerk the wagon forward, and he would tumble off the back. The force of his falling weight should be enough to snap a man’s neck.
As the soldiers worked, a crowd began to gather. Officers rode up and sat still on their horses. Soldiers and citizens from nearby towns gradually filled the clearing. By late afternoon, hundreds of people surrounded the gallows, and thousands lined the road leading to it. It was a somber crowd. People spoke in whispers, if at all.
Shortly before five o’clock, a wagon carrying a plain, pine coffin rattled along the road and into the clearing. The driver stopped his horses just beyond the gallows, with the wagon lined up under the dangling rope. The ghoulish figure of a hangman appeared, his face sloppily smeared with black axle grease to disguise his identity. He stood by the wagon and waited.
A few minutes after five, the distant sounds of a fife and drum band reached the clearing. The music grew louder, and the crowd recognized the tune—a funeral march. Soon the players came into view, stepping slowly and heavily in time with the music.
Behind the band marched the prisoner. He wore a spotless officer’s uniform, his long hair pulled back and tied neatly behind his neck. When he reached the clearing he saw the gallows and stopped. The color drained from his skin. He swallowed, making a visibly painful effort to force the saliva down his throat. Then he began marching again, walking steadily toward his death.
But this is the end of the story. The story begins thirty-nine years earlier and 125 miles to the east, in the busy port town of Norwich, Connecticut. The story begins with Benedict Arnold.
THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD Copyright © 2010 by Steve Sheinkin