Book Review: Phillis Wheatley, Young Revolutionary Poet

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Books in This Series

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

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The latest in the newly republished Young Patriots Series, this book really does credit to its subject. The amazing and extraordinary life of Phillis Wheatley, the slave girl whose poetry inspired a nation, comes to vivid life.

The struggles that Africans and African-Americans faced before and during the Revolutionary War are on full display here, as we follow young Phillis being sold into slavery. (Fortunately for her, she "belongs" to a family that will eventually think of her as one of their own.)

Also to be observed are the way that the War turned friend against friend, dividing the country into Loyalist versus supporter of the Sons of Liberty. Also worth mentioning is the spotlight on the class struggle that evolved in America as well. Those who had money found it easier to survive harrowing events like the closing of the Port of Boston than those who didn't. Phillis Wheatley's family takes on a patriotic bent and refuses to wear clothes made in Great Britain; as a result, they look like second-class citizens and are treated as such by people they thought were their friends.

It becomes clear very early on that Phillis is an intelligent child. She learns English quickly and develops a love of reading that lasts her entire life. She soon learns Latin and astounds her family with her poetry. It is this ability that gains her everlasting fame. (It is a testament to the character of the American leaders mentioned in the book, too, that they are willing to continue to hear and read poetry written by Phillis, a young slave girl.)

Phillis has many adventures, some natural for a child growing up and others unique to her experience and abilities. Perhaps her proudest moment is when she is presented with a book of her own poems. (In her particular modesty, she focuses solely on her name in print and can't quite believe that someone would take the time to publicize something that she had written.)

Many of the important events leading up to the Revolutionary War find their way into the narrative as well, since Phillis's family is directly involved in the independence movement (the Wheatley son being a Son of Liberty).

All in all, this is a very enjoyable book. If students have heard of Phillis Wheatley, it is mainly in passing. This book brings her story and beautiful words to life.

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Social Studies for Kids
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