Rescuing the Declaration of Independence: How We Almost Lost the Words That Built America

HarperCollins/Harper. Apr. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062740328.
Gr 1-5–Stephen Pleasonton, a relatively unknown hero of the War of 1812, saved the physical copies of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution from destruction when the British attacked Washington, DC, in 1814. When Secretary of State James Monroe spied the British making preparations to invade the Capitol, he sent a note to President James Madison, and Monroe’s office clerk, Pleasonton. The clerk immediately sprang into action and gathered the fledgling country’s most valuable documents. He recruited fellow Americans to aid in his mission, even as Secretary of War John Armstrong scoffed at the idea of the British invading Washington which, at the time, was a swamp. Pleasonton’s bravery and persistence allowed many important national documents to survive. The narrative propels readers forward and is complimented by Fotheringham’s playful, digitally rendered illustrations. An author’s note, information about the rescued documents, a time line, and a bibliography are included.
VERDICT Although the story would have benefited from additional background information about the War of 1812, this picture book is a unique tale of heroism by an ordinary and relatively unknown clerk. A welcome addition to history shelves.

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