The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
Unabridged, 6 hr. 51 min.
Mark Bramhall (Narrator)
July 12, 2012
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, YA
Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library
“Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America’s first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young readers to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale.”
Like most people, I grew up knowing pretty much only one thing about Benedict Arnold – that he was a traitor to the Americans during the Revolution. I didn’t even know that he was from Connecticut (about 2 towns away from where I grew up)! However, in most cases, there is typically a deeper story there – and that is what Sheinkin gives us in The Notorious Benedict Arnold. By the time I reached the end of the book I had an entirely new viewpoint on the man. Yes, he is still a traitor, but he was an amazing soldier for the Americans before his turn and a confluence of events led him to change sides. I can admire the man for the things that he did before become a traitor (and although I knew it was coming, I was disappointed when he switched alliegances).
This was one of those non-fictions that really felt more like a novel. The pages carried you from event to event and it felt like you were right there within the action while still giving you enough background information. Sheinkin turns the paper cut-out traitor into a real man of flesh and blood. I also learned quite a bit about British spy-master, John Andre. I always knew that he was ultimately executed by the Americans for spying, but I couldn’t believe how dumb he was about it – he violated all of the basic tenants of espionage at war and that cost him his life.
I didn’t know until putting this review together that this book is a non-fiction book for young adults. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that by just reading the book. I imagine that the fast-paced, storytelling nature of the book would really entice a young reader who picked it up, but it is quite a valuable book for adults as well. I would recommend this to any student who is taking a US history class, high school or adult, as it really gives you a side of the story you don’t hear about elsewhere.
There was a strong afterword/author’s note at the end of the book which I very much appreciated. I also found his theory for the boot monument intriguing – more about that later.
The narrator did an excellent job of keeping the story moving and was quite entertaining to listen to.
Steve Sheinkin also has written several other books including:
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers which would appeal to adults as well as Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War, King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution, and Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About Westward Expansion which would appeal to children (illustrated). You can visit the author’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, try listening to the author reading an excerpt of the book?
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