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Book Review: Lew Wallace, Boy Writer


Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Books in This Series

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

Book Three in the wonderful Young Patriots Series is Lew Wallace, Boy Writer, by Martha E. Schaaf. Like the other books in the series, this book is a republication, this time of a book that came out originally in 1961.

It has lost none of its relevance.

Many people know that Lew Wallace wrote Ben-Hur. But he wrote that as an adult. Not many folks know what young Lewis did as a kid.

He was an adventuresome child, as illustrated marvelously (with both words and pictures) in this book. He loved the outdoors and longed to be a soldier or a frontiersman. It was that the schooling that always seemed to get in the way of this. Lew finds himself daydreaming in class, longing to be an artist or a fighting man. He also finds himself on the wrong end of a switch a time or two!

The book does a good job of bringing to life the American West, such as it was in the early part of the 19th Century. Young Lewis is influenced by his law-abiding yet free-thinking father (who, we find out, cast the deciding vote in favor of the telegraph while he was a Congressman), the early death of his mother, the encouragement of a local artist, and (especially) a professor at a private school. We see Lewis drifting from infatuation to infatuation, until he discovers books. Then, he's hooked. And it is the private school professor who encourages him to write himself.

True to its nature, this book shows us Lew Wallace's childhood, ending with his entry into the Mexican War, at age 19. Along the way, we are treated to vivid glimpses of life on the prairie, life at a village schoolhouse, and life inside a Western family. The "magic pencil" that Lew is said to wield by his friends can also be used to describe the author herself, who does an excellent job of bringing to vivid life the active, imaginative childhood of a famous adult.

Graphics courtesy of Patria Press

Buy this book from Patria Press

 
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