When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots

( 11 )

Overview

"This is the story that I tell my grandchildren at Christmas. I hope that this book will bring the tradition of sharing history to families all across America."
? Lynne Cheney

Christmas night, 1776, was a troubled time for our young country. In the six months since the Declaration of Independence had been signed, General George Washington and his troops had suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the British. It looked as though our ...

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Overview

"This is the story that I tell my grandchildren at Christmas. I hope that this book will bring the tradition of sharing history to families all across America."
— Lynne Cheney

Christmas night, 1776, was a troubled time for our young country. In the six months since the Declaration of Independence had been signed, General George Washington and his troops had suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the British. It looked as though our struggle for independence might be doomed, when Washington made a bold decision. He would lead the main body of his army across the Delaware River and launch a surprise attack on enemy forces.
Washington and his men were going against the odds. It seemed impossible that the ragtag Americans could succeed against the mightiest power in the world. But the men who started across the icy Delaware loved their country and their leader. Under his command they would turn the tide of battle and change the course of history.
Best-selling author Lynne Cheney tells the dramatic story of the military campaign that began on Christmas night in 1776. When Washington Crossed the Delaware will teach the young about the heroism, persistence, and patriotism of those who came before them.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Lynne Cheney makes a departure in her picture book presentation of American history, this time teaming up with illustrator Peter M. Fiore for a dramatic, engrossing recount of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware. Coupling lengthy descriptions of events and notable quotes from Washington and other personalities of the time, Cheney relays the crucial point during the American Revolution when the war began turning in Washington's favor. Beginning in November 1776 and quickly following with the general's Christmas journey across the river, Cheney and Fiore wonderfully take readers through legendary waters as we learn about the condition of Washington's army and how they stealthily made their way from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. From there, the author tells of the Battle of Trenton and the daring retaking of Princeton, rounding out the book with a lesson for audiences and a list of sources. An excellent message about courage, smart thinking, overcoming odds, and, of course, an important piece of American history, Cheney and Fiore's book makes an inspiring read that should make children appreciate freedom itself and the struggle to win it. Fiore's large, dark-hued illustrations show striking images of troops and the wintry northeastern landscape, packing a punch that's additionally strengthened by map endpapers and a short introduction by the author. A look at America's past that reminds us of freedom's ring. Shana Taylor
Publishers Weekly
Cheney (A Is for Abigail) serves up an inspiring slice of U.S. history in this account of a pivotal event in the American Revolution. With a generous smattering of quotes from primary sources, the author describes Washington's crossing of the ice-encrusted Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, as he led 2,400 men from Pennsylvania into New Jersey and defeated British-hired Hessian soldiers at the Battle of Trenton. At times, the narrative awkwardly jumps ahead (in the midst of the surprise attack on Trenton, the author intersperses biographies of 19-year-old Capt. Hamilton and then 18-year-old Lieut. James Monroe). But if the leaps slow the momentum somewhat, these facts will nonetheless fascinate readers, as will some of the more familiar-undeniably powerful-details (e.g., many of the American troops taking their prisoners back over the river to Pennsylvania "marched without shoes and left bloody footprints in the snow"). The author underscores Washington's charisma, bravery and brilliance as a military tactician with examples of how he rallied his exhausted troops for a subsequent, successful surprise attack on British General Cornwallis's army in Princeton on January 3. Fiore's (Touching the Sky) midnight landscape of the lone British soldier keeping watch on the fires of the surreptitiously vacated American campground underscores the dramatic strategy. The multi-textured, effectively shadowed oil paintings simultaneously capture both the dire circumstances and elegance of the soldiers, and deftly do justice to this history-altering event. A source note cites the references to the elucidating quotes from Washington and others. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Washington's famed crossing of the Delaware is a treasured part of American history that gets a beautifully packaged presentation here. It's undeniably cheering in a dark and discouraging world to read of Washington's bold and daring maneuver to surprise the enemy and save the hopes of his struggling young country. Cheney's account, meticulously documented, is a bit flat in its narration. While each page includes a stirring quotation from a historical source, it would have been stronger to have integrated these directly into the text. Better to hear Martha Washington's grandson recounting that a watching officer, "horror-struck at the danger of his beloved commander, . . . drew his hat over his face that he might not see [Washington] die," than to hear Cheney's pedestrian report: "Once the two sides started firing, it seemed impossible that [Washington] would survive." The book in the end belongs to Fiore, whose large, dramatically composed paintings dominate each double-page spread with their own vivid retelling of this crucial turning point in American history. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages all.
—Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Cheney chronicles the general's courageous leadership in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, including his famed crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas 1776. The story is clearly told, although the organization falls apart slightly in the second half. Primary quotes decorate each page, adding visual interest but occasionally disrupting the flow of the narrative. Done in oil paints on canvas, the large, dramatic illustrations create a sweeping feel that captures the mood of the text. While the picture-book format necessitates some simplification of the events, the account is accurate and interesting. A source page cites only the quotes used, and not the information presented, and the book's preface includes the recommendation that grandparents share this book with their grandchildren at Christmastime, which needlessly excludes those "young patriots" who do not celebrate Christmas. This title is more straightforward, but less comprehensive, than Louise Peacock's Crossing the Delaware: A History in Many Voices (Atheneum, 1998). Cheney's offering makes an adequate supplement to history collections, and will appeal to families wishing to read inspirational picture books about America's past.-Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689870439
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 317,946
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.76 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynne Cheney

Lynne Cheney's most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, We the People: The Story of Our Constitution, illustrated by Greg Harlin. She is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers America: A Patriotic Primer, A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women, When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots, A Time for Freedom: What Happened When in America, and Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America, and has written a memoir, Blue Skies, No Fences. Mrs. Cheney is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Lynne Cheney about When Washington Crossed the Delaware

You tell the story of Washington crossing the Delaware to your grandchildren at Christmas. How did this tradition begin?

LC: A few years ago I realized that this inspiring story is not only timely for late December (since the crossing began on Christmas night), but that it carries an important message for a time of year when children are thinking about presents. It helps them understand that the best gifts don't come wrapped in paper and ribbons. but They are like the hope that Washington and his soldiers gave to their countrymen by achieving victories at Trenton and Princeton after the Americans had suffered so many defeats.

Does your family have any other favorite stories from history?

LC: I'm personally drawn to tales of people who changed the course of history. Joshua Chamberlain did that by holding the left flank at Gettysburg. If he and his men hadn't been strong and brave, the Union might have lost that critical battle. Such stories help us understand the important role that individuals play in shaping history.

You dedicate this book to your first grandson, Philip Richard Perry, who was born this summer. What do you think he and other children can learn from this country's past and from its founding fathers?

LC: All of us should learn that freedom isn't inevitable. It had to be won in the beginning and defended many times since. Particularly when our nation is at war, as it is now, this is an important realization for both children and adults.

Washington, who tried so hard to be the kind of person that his countrymen could admire, is an especially good figure for children to learn about. But then each of the founders' lives has lessons for us: Madison shows the importance of reading and studying, for example, and Franklin of thinking about life and trying to live it better. And the ideas of freedom and equality that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Franklin enshrined in our founding documents should be at the center of every child's education.

How did you research this book? Did you visit the battlefields in Trenton and Princeton?

LC: I visited Washington's Crossing Historic Park, which is where Washington and his men crossed the Delaware, and gained a truly valuable understanding of the Battle of Trenton from having it described to me by Old Barracks Museum director Richard Patterson as we surveyed the scene from the top of the Battle of Trenton Monument. I also visited the Old Barracks Museum, where both American and Hessian troops lodged during the war. I owe so much to many scholars who generously answered questions and referred me to sources. David Hackett Fischer, author of the wonderful book Washington's Crossing, was especially helpful as Peter Fiore and I worked through the details of the ten days from December 25 to January 3.

How did you choose Peter Fiore to illustrate this book?

LC: I admired the work he had done on other children's books, particularly Henry David's House, a beautiful book about Thoreau. He's not only a talented painter, he has a deep interest in history, and that's a great combination.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is perhaps the best-known depiction of the events of December 25, 1776. How do you think Leutze's painting has influenced the way people think of that historic night? How does the painting differ from what really happened?

LC: The wonderful Leutze painting is meant to inspire as much as to inform and so Leutze took some artistic license. The Stars and Stripes fly over Washington's boat even though he wouldn't have carried that flag until later in the Revolutionary War.

Peter Fiore placed a high premium on accuracy. He shows the blue flag with white stars that Washington would actually have had with him at the time, for example. I think Peter did a terrific job of coming up with a fresh interpretation of Washington's crossing. It's a real challenge to see something anew when there is an iconic painting like Leutze's hovering in everyone's consciousness.

The George Washington portrait that most people are familiar with is the one that appears on the dollar bill. Since Washington was much younger when he crossed the Delaware, which portraits of the general did you and Peter M. Fiore use for reference?

LC: Charles Willson Peale and Thomas Sully both painted the younger Washington, but the truth of the matter is that Peale's Washington and Sully's don't look very much alike. But we know from their paintings, as we do from paintings of the older Washington, that he was a man of commanding bearing. In any group, he stood out as the leader, and that quality of command shines through in Peter's paintings.

Sailors from the 14th Continental Regiment of Marblehead, Massachusetts ferried General Washington and his men across the treacherous waters of the Delaware River the night of December 25, 1776, then fought in the Battle of Trenton, and finally crossed back over the river again with Hessian captives. Some historians consider the Marbleheaders to be the true heroes of this battle. What do you think?

LC: The Marbleheaders were crucial to the crossing, but so were many others. Colonel Henry Knox, for example, who directed the movements of soldiers and boats as they left the Pennsylvania shore, was an indispensable man-but no one was more indispensable that night than Washington, who inspired men to deeds they could not have imagined they could accomplish.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2004

    So educational

    This book is great for children to learn about Washington in our history of the United States. They can so much in this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2004

    Beautifully done.

    My six year old daughter loves this book. The illustrations are perfect and the story brings the 'crossing' to life. So many times the facts get in the way of the story. The author, bogged down in the facts tells a dry story lacking the emotional impact the events deserve. Lynne Cheney captures the spirit and awe of this event but in language that children and adults alike can respond. No one who reads this will walk away unmoved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    Great Christmas Present!

    I'm so happy to see such a beautiful book educating America's young minds about our fascinating history. My children love the story and the beautiful paintings by Peter Fiore that accompany Mrs. Cheney's prose. I'm sure we will enjoy reading this together for many years to come. I've bought a copy for everyone in my family!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    UGH!

    Had to read for school. Thought it was ok, but was dissapointed

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  • Posted December 27, 2011

    A Story Brought to Life

    When our youngest received this as a Christmas gift he would hardly put it down. He considers himself a young patriot and eagerly reads history, especially anything about George Washington. Not only is the text engaging, the pictures truly impart the feel of what that night might have been like.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Terrific in All Respects

    My son thoroughly enjoys this book, from the artwork to the story itself. This book helped initiate him into the passion that is America's history. I hope Mrs. Cheney writes more of these fine books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2005

    AMAZING BOOK!

    Our entire family loves this book. We are homeschoolers and used this book when studying the American Revolution. The paintings are absolutely wonderful. After reading each page we discussed the paintings. We also liked the quotes found on each page. This is a definite must in any library!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2005

    A Must for School Libraries & librarians to learn from!

    Good for ages 5-10. Great for Christmas and for all of the holiday season. If our schools had more books like this instead of rewritten history our children would learn to respect the sacrifices made that make this a great country. All my kids enjoyed this and their friends too. The illustrations are fantastic. I also enjoyed Mrs. Cheney's other fine books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2004

    Thinly veiled partisan political pitch...

    Lynne Cheney is not the author to tackle issues of 'heroism, persistence, and patriotism.' Her writing is much more suited to her past steamy sex potboilers than her attempts to illuminate or empower our nation's children with information regarding our history. Crafting a book about history for children that does not present a biased view is a difficult challenge, one Cheney fails to meet in 'When Washington Crossed the Delaware.' It's a thinly veiled partisan political pitch disguised as history for children.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    'Lifting Patriotic Spirits'

    What a delightful and inspiring book for patriots of all ages! Mrs. Cheney's retelling of Washington's battleplan for Trenton was full of insights into the personal lives of those who were there. The beautiful illustrations captured the spirit of patriotism in fine detail. It was wonderful to have the suggestion of planning a time at Christmas to read the story aloud as a family tradition. The listeners in our library will be challenged to become the patriots we need for the 21st century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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