Young John Quincy by Cheryl Harkness

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Young John Quincy by Cheryl Harkness (Bradbury Press, 1994) is a unique historical fiction story about John Quincy Adams in which events from his childhood during the Revolutionary era in America tell a story. Harkness provides age detailed illustrations and maps to accompany his story. Although the text is lengthy for young readers, Young John Quincy gives a third person narration to the time with a personal tone that suggests familiarity and a common childhood experience. Dialogue brings the story into an active voice. The familiar childhood feelings and family relationships take center stage while the discussions and events in Johnny’s life play a significant side role. This could be any young family, but it is not!

It is also subtly educational. The text and illustrations teach about life in the late 1700s, such as the mail system, the difficulties of traveling, growing food in a garden, and sewing clothing in the parlor. It also highlights significant concepts and events from the war. For example, it begins with a visit from a militiaman, it discusses the difficulties of the blockade of Boston Harbor for more than a year, and it ultimately ends with the family gathering around to hear the words of the Declaration of Independence which John Adams, the father, had helped to produce. A patriotic celebration ends this section of John Quincy Adams’ life.

With a friendly story format, Young John Quincy is an entertaining and easy-to-approach picture book for ages 8+. Younger children may enjoy portions but the detailed maps and some of the abundance of text may be a bit overwhelming and overly long for the very young.

Reviewed on June 30, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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