Road to Revolution! (The Cartoon Chronicles of America)
By Stan Mack and Susan Champlin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781599900131
Grades 4-7
In Stores
Review copy provided by publisher



Quality graphic novels based on historical events are hard to find. And there have been many attempts. You’ve probably seen ’em while flipping through a catalog full of nonfiction:

Your reluctant readers are going to love I Am Not a Crook, the Watergate graphic novel!

The problem? Many of these titles employ the following formula:

1. Take important elements of historical event

2. Draw some stiff panels depicting these events

3. Pack the caption boxes to the point of bursting

4. Add brief, awkward dialog

5. Run the presses

The result? A dull series of tableau-esqe panels that don’t do much to actually increase kid appeal. Road to Revolution! is not one of these. By adding “fictional characters who get caught up with real-life people and events”, cartoonist Stan Mack and writer/editor Susan Champlin skillfully inject life into the American Revolution. The first in a planned four book series focusing on American history, Road to Revolution! is a success.

Main characters Nick and Penny did not actually exist, but they could have. Penny is the spirited daughter of a Boston tavern owner. Nick is a quick-witted orphan, living on the streets. When Penny saves Nick from capture, the two strike up a friendship based on the building tension between the 13 Colonies and England. As the build-up to war continues, the pair help the revolutionary forces, eventually spying and fighting for the freedom of America.

After the prologue, which explains the sources of resentment between the two sides, the action is brisk. Humor plays a part as well, lightening the mood at various points in the story. Given the fiction/nonfiction format of Road to Revolution!, I was glad to see that the authors included an epilogue that describes where artistic liberties were taken.

The style of artwork may be a drawback in terms of attracting readers. While the cartoonish illustrations are colorful and  lively, they lack the level of hipness that many comics-loving graphic novel fans are used to. This will likely be more of a factor for readers on the older end of this book’s target audience (6th-7th graders). I’m not sure if this is going to be a sure thing for fans of, say, Amulet or Into the Volcano, but it may also serve to attract a different audience.

Overall, an entertaining and informative affair. If you’re going to be stocking graphic novels based on historical events, you’ll be doing the right thing by adding Road to Revolution!

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Write About Now.

Also reviewed by Reading Rumpus, Many a Quaint and Curious Volume,

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.