Book Review: James Whitcomb Riley, Young Poet

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Books in This Series

• Amelia Earhart
• William Henry Harrison
• Lew Wallace
• Juliette Low
• Eddie Rickenbacker
• Mahalia Jackson
• George Rogers Clark
John Hancock
Phillis Wheatley
Abner Doubleday

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Book Five in the wonderful Young Patriots Series is James Whitcomb Riley, Young Poet, by Minnie Belle Mitchell and Montrew Dunham. Like the other books in the series, this book is a republication, this time of a book that came out originally in 1942.

It is as fresh as ever.

We see some wonderful vignettes of young "Bud" Riley as a kid. He runs and jumps and manages to stay just the good side of trouble in frontier Indiana in the years just before the Civil War.

Ever the showman, Bud wants to put on circuses, traveling shows, and animal menageries. A typical boy his age, he helps out around the house because it's the right thing to do, not because he necessarily chooses to do so.

Bud is also a very smart boy, as he shows from early on when he demonstrates his ability to read in front of the class. And it is this love of reading and of books (and, by extension, of writing) that leads him to his true passion, writing poetry. His fun adventures with his family and with his friends find their way into his poems, which are expertly interspersed throughout the book.

A pivotal point in the book is Bud's father's enlistment in the Union army to fight in the Civil War. Mr. Riley doesn't come back right away (In fact, he's gone for several years.), and Bud and the rest of the family have to find a way to deal with the fact that he might never be coming back. Bud also sees the "other side" up close when he discovered that one of his uncles is fighting for the Confederacy!

This is a fun book, a book that illuminates this part of history through the eyes of a growing boy. The reader experiences those things with Bud, feels what he feels about the events, and (as an added bonus) reads his poetry along the way.

To fans of this series, this book is a welcome addition. It can also serve as an introduction to one of the finest series of books for young readers on any shelf.


Other books in the series:
Amelia Earhart: Young Air Pioneer
William Henry Harrison: Young Tippecanoe
Lew Wallace: Boy Writer
Juliette Low: Girl Scouts Founder

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David White