Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales
By Nathan Hale
One Dead Spy
Published 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
Big Bad Ironclad!
Published 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
Donner Dinner Party
Published 2013 by Harry N. Abrams
Join Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale on an irreverent romp through history in this series by present-day Nathan Hale (no joke, that's the author's real name). In One Dead Spy, learn the story of Hale himself (the historical one, not the current one) and his famous last words. Big Bad Ironclad! relates the story of the iron warships first built and used in the Civil War. Finally, Donner Dinner Party tackles that horrific and fascinating expedition westward of the Donner family and its tragic consequences.
I first heard about this series from Betsy Bird (of the famed Fuse #8 blog). She was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the series and I took her enthusiasm to heart. I pestered my fellow librarian to order them for our graphic novel collection and snatched them up as soon as they arrived in the building. I do not regret this decision.
I love this series. It is fun and educational, told in an exciting and attention-grabbing way. The graphic novel format is, I think, particularly well-suited to non-fiction. The visual format gets readers' attention in a way that straightforward text likely would not. What I really like about Hale's series is that he chooses to focus on one small story at a time. There are so many to choose from in history that I have hopes this series will continue for a long time in the future.
Admittedly, I read the books out of order - Big Bad Ironclad! arrived before the others, so I picked that one up first. It took me a little bit longer to figure out the frame story (the stories are told as Hale attempts to delay his hanging; when he utters his famous last words, he makes history, is sucked up by a history book, and spit back out with all the stories of history now in his brain), but Hale does a pretty decent job of catching up readers who pick them up out of order like me.
The frame story is a great way to tell these stories - it makes Hale a character, as well as the two men attending his execution. The hangman provides plenty of comic relief, which particularly comes in handy during Donner Dinner Party. I really, really think Hale has struck upon a genius idea for this series.
I love the art as well. I love that each book is told primarily with one major color (red, then blue, then green) - it makes the artwork even more visually appealing.
I don't have much else to say except I heartily recommend this series to all readers and I'm really looking forward to more entries in the future.
Oh, and as a plus, I just found out that One Dead Spy is a 2014-15 Bluebonnet title, so I can't wait for kids to discover this series!

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