February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarA Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent. 14 min. Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99. ISBN 9781520066141.

STAR-DVD-ASpyCalledJamesGr 2-5 –Anne Rockwell’s exquisitely written picture book biography about an unknown African American hero of the Revolutionary War is noteworthy on many levels. The addition of the richly textured illustrations of Floyd Cooper makes it a winning selection. Everyone knows the names Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington and their contributions to the establishment of the United States. Lesser known are the 5,000 enslaved people who fought in the revolution, and even less known is the story of James, an enslaved person who spied as a double agent for General Lafayette. Aristocratic British General Cornwallis paid no attention to James and accepted his services as a guide and forager without suspecting James was listening to his battle plans and examining his maps. James’s courage was remarkable, as he brought vital information to Lafayette and returned to Cornwallis with misleading intelligence. His work led to the capturing of Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown. When James’s petition for freedom was denied, an outraged Lafayette wrote a certification to the Virginia legislature, which finally relented two years later. A bonus track with an author’s note details Rockwell’s use of primary sources, such as government documents and tax records. Rodney Gardiner and Qarie Marshall narrate, and Lafayette’s passionate certificate praising James appears word by word on the screen. VERDICT This account of an unsung hero will inform and inspire students to uncover the hidden stories of American history. An outstanding resource for young historians.–Lonna Pierce, MacArthur and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, Binghamton, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

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