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The adult accomplishments of this Founding Father, architect of the Constitution and first Secretary of the Treasury, are legendary, and in this latest offering, children meet the young "Alec" growing up in the Caribbean as he dreams of visiting the land called America. Accompanied by his parrot, Hurry-Up, and his companion, Poleon, Alec's tranquil days are filled with the books he loves and visits to the waterfront to greet the large ships arriving from Europeuntil his uncle insists that Alec fit riding lessons into his schedule. Children will identify with Alec's struggle to overcome his fear of horses and cheer at his courage as he narrowly escapes a violent hurricane while on horseback, all while keeping his eye on the prizeschool in America. Featured sections and fun facts explain what happened next and when Alexander Hamilton lived, providing young readers with a snapshot of the leader's entire life.
About the Author
Helen Boyd Higgins (18921971) was the author of numerous books for children about famous Americans, including Stephen Foster, Juliette Low, Walter Reed, and Noah Webster. Cathy Morrison is the illustrator of Ignacio's Chair and the Young Patriots series. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and Picturebookartists.org. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Read an Excerpt
By Helen Boyd Higgins, Harold Underdown, Cathy Morrison
Patria Press, Inc.Copyright © 2008 The Estate of Helen Boyd Higgins
All rights reserved.
Rescue from the Sea
The birds and monkeys heard Alec as he came running through the forest.
"Hey! My friends up there in the trees!" he shouted. "Do you know what day this is? It's my mother's birthday!"
The bright-colored, long-tailed parakeets twittered and the monkeys chattered, and Alexander Hamilton laughed as he jumped over a fallen log.
It was early morning on the island of St. Croix in the West Indies. St. Croix belonged to Denmark, unlike Nevis Island, where Alec was born, which belonged to England.
Alec watched as a long, greenish-brown snake uncoiled itself from the middle of the path and rattled away into the deep woods.
A land crab crawled across the path, and Alec sat down on the log to watch it. He began to sing, as he always did when he was excited. This morning he was thinking about his mother's birthday, so this is what he sang:
"It is the month of August
In seventeen sixty-five.
It is my mother's birthday —
I'm glad she is alive."
The crab kept pushing his heavy shell through the leaves.
"Goodbye," Alec called, "I'd like to follow you. But I don't have time today. I must find a piece of pink coral to tie on my mother's necklace. That will be my present for her."
As he spoke, a piece of coconut shell hit him on the ear. A family of monkeys was peeping down through the palm branches. They were throwing whatever their paws could reach.
Alec gave a shout and climbed up the nearest banana tree.
When he reached the branches just opposite the monkeys, he looked around for ammunition. Just above him was a giant bunch of ripe bananas.
"Hey!" he called to the little brown animals. "On guard, there! I'm fighting for the King."
The monkeys seemed to understand. Coconut pieces and bananas began to fly back and forth. It was a hard but short war.
"Come on, lazy ones!" Alec shouted as he saw that the monkeys were hurrying away.
"Hi-ho!" he called again as he threw the last shot. "I have won the battle for King George. Now these trees and this island of St. Croix belong again to England."
The monkeys only chattered as they hurried away. Alec slid down the smooth tree trunk and ran happily up a steep path leading to a cliff overlooking the great, blue Atlantic Ocean.
Alec often came here just to watch the waves come tumbling in on the sandy beaches below. He liked to think about the time when he would take a boat across this ocean to the American Colonies.
His mother had told him that the American Colonies were so far away across the ocean that it took weeks to reach them. Alec knew that there were Indians living in the forests that covered much of the new land.
He also knew that in a town called New York in the new country, there was a college. Alec thought that it would be more exciting than anything in the whole world to sail away on a boat to America. It was his biggest dream.
But today he had no time to think about anything but his errand to the coral beach beyond the cliff. He ran down the path to the sandy shore. The wet sand oozed between his toes. He turned a handspring and walked into the sea.
He could hear the boom of the big ocean waves as they broke against the rocks at the entrance to the harbor. The water came higher and higher on his legs.
When it was up to his waist, Alec dove into the breakers. He swam with the waves into the deep, still water beyond.
Turning over on his back, he squinted at the soft clouds above him. Again he began to sing:
"The waves are soft and green and cold;
The sea is salt and oh! so old.
The fish that live beneath the water
Swim and swim and swim
And so do I."
He heard a gentle slapping of the water. It was very quiet. For a few minutes Alec forgot that he was on a special errand.
"Hurry-Up! Hurry-Up!" came the sound of a voice from close by.
Alec turned over on his side. He raised his head.
"Hurry-Up, Hurry-Up, Hurry-Up," the call came again.
"I'm coming," Alec shouted back. "Where are you?"
This time there was no answer. Alec swam around a point of land. He could see no one.
"Hi!" he called. "Where are you?"
Still he could see nothing but a few gulls flying close to the water looking for fish.
He shaded his eyes from the sun. Then he saw a small, dark object bobbing up and down on the waves, close to the coral rocks.
"Well!" Alec said. "I don't know what that can be. But I don't see anything else. The shout couldn't come from that, could it?"
"Hurry-Up. I say, matey," came the voice again.
"I'll go see what that is," Alec decided.
Alec was a fast swimmer. He was soon close beside the object. It was a cage-like box.
Alec pulled it toward him.
"Hi, matey!" came a voice from inside.
Alec was so surprised that he jerked back his arm.
There, peeping out at him, were two bright eyes. Looking at him from the corner of the box was a big green and red parrot.
"How did you get in there?" Alec asked as he pulled the box toward him.
The bird only blinked his eyes and ruffled his feathers.
Alec pushed the cage ahead of him toward the shore. The bird scolded whenever the water came inside his house.
When Alec reached the shore he pushed the box high up on the sand. It was built to look like a small house. It had a slanted roof which was painted green. Alec saw some letters under the eaves of the roof.
HIS MAJESTY'S SAILING SHIP, Altha.
LONDON TO CHRISTIANSTED
"Why, Hurry-Up must be your name! Do you want to get out?" he asked the bird.
The parrot snapped his bill and blinked his eyes. Alec pulled back the fastening which opened the door and Hurry-Up walked out on the sand. He waddled off down the shore, scolding and shaking his feathers.
Alec laughed and watched him go. Then, keeping one eye on the strange bird, he began to search among the piles of seaweed for a piece of pink coral.
After a while he decided to go around the point. Hurry-Up was sitting in the sun cleaning his feathers. Alec thought that the parrot was paying no attention to what he was doing. He started off down the shore.
"Hi, matey!" screamed the bird.
Alec turned. Hurry-Up was half flying and half running down the sand toward him.
When the parrot reached Alec's side, he scolded and cawed. Alec stooped down to smooth his feathers, and the bird hopped up on his shoulder.
In a few minutes Hurry-Up flew down on the sand and began pushing and pulling the piles of seaweed about with his bill.
Alec laughed and laughed as he watched the busy bird.
"My! I hope that no one claims you! I want you for my pet. We could have a lot of fun together," he said.
The bird blinked and went on working.
It was getting late.
"I must find that coral. My present for Mother won't be pretty without it," Alec said with a frown.
"Hi, matey!" said the parrot. The bird had a piece of shell in his bill.
"No, that's not right. It has to be pink," Alec said as he took the shell and put it in his pocket.
Again the bird started hunting. Each time he found something, he brought it to Alec.
The sun was getting hot. Alec had a whole pocket full of things that Hurry-Up had found, but no pink coral.
"I won't give up," said Alec. "I won't."
"Hi, matey!" called Hurry-Up again from down the shore. (Image 1.1)
"What did you find this time?" Alec said.
Hurry-Up came squawking toward him. He had something pink in his bill.
"Hey!" shouted Alec. "You've found it! You've found the pink coral! That's wonderful! We don't have to hunt any more. Now we can go home."
But the parrot liked the game that he thought they had been playing. He didn't want to stop, and when Alec put him back in his box, he scolded and fussed. He scolded all the way across the narrow waterway to the home shore.
When they reached the shore, Alec let Hurry-Up out of his box. Alec could tell by the sun that it was almost noon.
"We'll have to hurry if we want to get back to Uncle Peter's before lunch is ready," Alec said as he started off through the woods with his new pet on his shoulder and the box in his hand.CHAPTER 2
Happy Birthday, Mother
When Alec and Hurry-Up reached his Uncle Peter's plantation, the dinner bell was ringing.
This first signal meant that the field slaves, working in the sugar cane, were to stop, have lunch, and rest. It also meant that Alec's lunch would be ready in a half an hour.
He ran across the garden and up the stairs to his room. He dropped Hurry-Up on the bed and brought out a small iron box from the closet.
Inside the box was a string of tiny shells on a silk cord.
He lifted out the necklace and tied the pink coral to the middle of the string. Hurry-Up waddled over to the box and stuck his head inside.
"I found that box on the shore," Alec said, "near my own home before we moved here. This isn't my real home, you know, Hurry-Up."
The bird hopped up on Alec's knee. He picked at the necklace and tried to remove the coral.
"I know you found it," Alec said. "But we are giving it to Mother. Hey, don't do that!"
Hurry-Up began to shake the string of shells. He braced his feet and began to scold. Alec laughed. Hurry-Up scolded louder. His head went back and forth, and the shells tinkled like bells.
"Say, you have a temper just like mine, don't you, old fellow?" said Alec. "But you can't have the coral, even if you did find it."
Alec spoke so sternly that the bird blinked his eyes, let go of the coral, and flew off across the room.
Alec was still tying the coral when he heard his mother's voice outside. She was asking Becca, the maid, where he was.
Alec frowned. He knew that he must hurry because in his new home, he had to change his clothes before he went down to dinner. That was one reason Alec liked his old home best.
When he and his mother had lived on Nevis Island they had not dressed for dinner and they had eaten wherever they were. His little goat had come up on the terrace and Alec had squatted down by her side and had sent the warm milk right into his mouth.
Here his milk was served in a cup.
At Uncle Peter's big house he had to sit at a table. He could not speak unless someone spoke to him. He could not leave the table until Uncle Peter and his mother were finished.
"Squawk, squawk," came a funny sound from across the room. "Gurgle, gurgle, gur —"
Alec looked up from his work.
The water pitcher on the washstand was shaking back and forth. The parrot's two small, red feet waved feebly out of the mouth of the pitcher.
Alec hurried to pull him out. His eyes were closed and his head hung limp.
"Say, you better stop being so curious. You almost drowned," said Alec.
Hurry-Up shook his feathers. He choked and coughed. He started to scold and pecked at Alec's hand.
The big dinner bell rang again. Dinner was ready. Alec put Hurry-Up on the window sill and quickly pulled on his clean suit. Uncle Peter expected him to be on time for dinner.
He set Hurry-Up on his shoulder and ran down the iron steps from his balcony to the terrace below.
As he hurried he saw his mother reading in the garden.
"Mother, Mother!" he shouted. "Happy birthday, Mother! I have brought you a present. I made it myself. Last year on your birthday you said that you wanted one."
Alec threw his arms about his mother's neck and gave her a big hug. Then he put the necklace in her hand.
"Why, Alec, dear," she said. "It's beautiful! It must have taken you —"
"Squawk, squawk," said Hurry-Up from Alec's shoulder.
The bird dove, picked up the necklace from the lady's hand, and flew off into a tall palm tree.
For a moment Alec and his mother were so surprised, they couldn't speak.
"Bring that back!" shouted Alec. "Bring it back!"
But the parrot only shook his wings and sat hunched up on the limb of the tree. The necklace hung from his bill.
"Where did that bird come from?" asked Alec's mother. "Oh, dear! My beautiful necklace!"
"Don't worry, I'll get it, Mother. Just you wait!" Alec shouted as he ran toward the tree.
His mother followed him and stood under the palm tree while Alec climbed up the smooth trunk.
As Alec got closer to Hurry-Up, the bird began to flutter his wings.
"Don't you fly to another tree!" shouted Alec. "I'll follow you if you do."
But instead of flying away, as Alec expected, Hurry-Up began to come toward Alec. When the two met, Alec held out his hand to catch the bird. Hurry-Up ducked his head and dropped the necklace quickly into the outstretched hand. Then he hopped upon his new friend's shoulder and began to squawk.
"Mother!" called Alec. "I think that Hurry-Up thought that you were taking the necklace away from me. He found part of it himself. Wait until I tell you how it happened."
When Alec reached the ground, he told his mother all about his morning's adventures. They were still laughing over the story when Uncle Peter called to them from the terrace. Then both of them felt a little guilty because they were late to dinner.
The table was set in the shade of a big palm tree which stood near the terrace. Poleon, a young slave just Alec's age, stood behind Alec's mother's chair waving a palm branch over the table. He had to do this at all the meals to keep the flies away.
Alec pushed in his mother's chair and went quickly around the table to his own. Hurry-Up was settled on his shoulder.
Everything went smoothly until Hurry-Up flapped his wings and dove into a dish for a piece of food.
Poleon tried to catch him but the bird flew onto Uncle Peter's shoulder.
Alec ran around the table to catch his pet. He expected Uncle Peter to be very angry. (Image 2.1)
"Well! Well!" was all the older man said.
Then Alec saw that Uncle Peter was laughing so hard that he could hardly get his breath. Alec and his mother looked at each other. Then they began to laugh, too. Hurry-Up began to caw.
Uncle Peter lifted the bird from his shoulder and began to stroke his feathers.
"Where did you get him?" he asked Alec. "I once had a parrot. An old sailor gave it to me. I taught him to sing and say all kinds of things."
"I found him floating in a little box out beyond the coral rocks this morning," said Alec. "On the box it said that his name was Hurry-Up."
"Hurry-Up," said the bird. "Hi, matey!"
Uncle Peter smiled. Then they went back to eating. For the first time, Uncle Peter let Alec talk at the table.
It was the nicest meal that Alec and his mother had had since they had left home.
For dinner, besides turtle, they had yams, guava jelly, goat's milk, and pineapple.
When they had finished, Uncle Peter sat with them for a few minutes.
"The Queen Bess will dock tomorrow, Rachel," he said to Alec's mother. "You'll soon have your silk and linen from England."
"Oh, Uncle Peter, may Poleon and I go with you to the landing? Please let us," said Alec.
"Why, you have been to many a landing, I'm sure, haven't you, Alec?" asked Uncle Peter.
"Oh, yes, sir," said Alec. "But my book is on the Queen Bess. Please, please, let us go with you."
"Books. Books. Don't you ever think of anything but books, nephew? You read too much — and I don't like begging."
"I didn't mean to beg, only —"
"Then don't," said Uncle Peter.
"But Uncle Peter —"
"Alec!" said his mother.
Uncle Peter went into the house.
"Oh, Mother, please! I just must go. I —"
Alec stopped. When his mother spoke to him that way there was no use begging.
"You and Poleon go and get your rest," said his mother.
Even though Alec and Poleon were eight years old, they still took a nap after dinner. Everyone did. Even the men and women who worked in the fields and the men who worked in the warehouse by the docks took naps.
The two boys ran to where a hammock hung beneath a tree.
Alec climbed inside. Poleon lay down on the ground.
For a few minutes they were both quiet. Then Alec began to speak.
"Poleon," he began, "do you want to go away with me to the American Colonies?"
"Do I want to do what?" asked Poleon.
"Do you want to get on a boat with me some day, and go away across the Atlantic Ocean and —"
Poleon didn't answer. He was asleep. Alec settled back into the hammock to dream about the time when he would cross the ocean.
"Tomorrow," he said to himself, "I'll have a book that will tell me all about that new country. I hope Uncle Peter will let me go to the landing. I wonder...."
Then Alec went to sleep.CHAPTER 3
The Boat Lands, and Alec Makes a Friend
The next morning Poleon woke Alec before it was quite light.
"Master Alec! Master Alec!" he whispered. "We're going to see the Queen Bess come in. Better get up!"
Alec jumped out of bed before his eyes were wide open. Poleon was dressed in his best shirt and pants. He was grinning.
Excerpted from Alexander Hamilton by Helen Boyd Higgins, Harold Underdown, Cathy Morrison. Copyright © 2008 The Estate of Helen Boyd Higgins. Excerpted by permission of Patria Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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