Book Review for Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales
Fully Engage Grades 2-6 in History with the Graphic Novel Series Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales
While visiting the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA, my friends were deeply impressed with my knowledge of the Monitor, the Merrimack, their construction, and their famous battle in Hampton Roads, VA. Little did they know my ‘vast’ knowledge was mostly gained from a comic book.
At the museum book store, I found a copy of the graphic novel “Big Bad Ironclad” from the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Series. I told my friends they too could know everything about the conception, construction, sailing, battle, and sinking of these two innovative ships. All they needed to do was take an hour and read... and Ta-Da!.… this children’s book is full of fascinating historical details.
What Makes Nathan Hale, the author, of the Hazardous Tales Series so mesmerizing for children eight to twelve-years-old?
- Detailed Historical Research that appeals to High Interest, Low-Level Readers. In fourth grade, my nephew struggled to read, especially fiction. Before he started any book, he wanted to know if it was about a real person or something that actually happened. Even though he is in high school now, he still loves this series.
- Engaging Graphics that pull the reader into the mind of historical characters. In Underground Abductor, Hale uses images of ghosts on long-legged horses to depict Harriet Tubman’s ill feelings of safety in Philadelphia.
- Silly Fantasy including using animals to represent a historical figure in places and swallowing a volume of history. The revolutionary war spy, Nathan Hale, digested the history book and uses it to stall his hanging. He tells the hangman the roughest, toughest, most hazardous stories from United States history.
- Childhood Humor, both potty humor (One of the advantages of the Monitor over the Merrimack was being able to use an underwater toilet during the battle), and pun.
- Larger than Life Characters from history engaged in monumental hazardous struggles. The author, Nathan Hale, admits in an interview with Houstonia he has “fully embraced the historical weight of his name,” and loves to dig into history’s big events and gruesome things.
Here is the list of current Hazardous Tales’ books in this series:
- One Dead Spy – is about the revolutionary war spy, Nathan Hale, and the revolutionary war hero, Henry Knox.
- Big Bad Ironclad - is about the first two ironclad ships ever built and their famous Civil War battle. The ships were the Union’s Monitor designed by Swedish inventor, John Ericsson, and the South’s Merrimack, an iron-plated steam frigate.
- Donner Dinner Party – is about the ill-fated Donner-Reed pioneer company. (My sixteen-year-old daughter doesn’t understand why this one is a children’s book, but my thirteen-year-old daughter loves how Hale pictorially tracks the cannibalism).
- Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood – is about World War I. Hale uses animal characters in this book to downgrade the brutality of trench warfare.
- The Underground Abductor – gives us Harriet Tubman’s life story as a slave, her escape, her legendary work to conduct her friends and family out of slavery, and her work as a spy and officer in the Union army,
- Alamo All-Stars – chronicles Davey Crocket, Jim Bowie, and Stephen Austin in the Texas Revolution cumulating in the causalities at the Alamo.
- Raid of No Return – is about the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the start of World War II.
- Lafayette – gives us the Frenchman Lafayette’s role in the American Revolution.
- Major Impossible – navigates John Wesley Powell’s harrowing exploration of the Grand Canyon.
- Blades of Freedom – is about the Haitian Revolution and America acquiring most of the land drained by the Mississippi River in the Louisiana Purchase.
I recommended reading the books in this series to my sister when her fourth-grader was struggling to read. Now her little public library in Emery, UT stocks all of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. She tells me these books are so popular they are rarely on the shelf.
When we visited them this summer, they had Major Impossible on loan. After exclaiming, “Oh, yeah! A new one!” My thirteen-year-old disappeared behind its cover.
Article by Miss Jae
Schkloven, Emma. “Graphic Novelist Nathan Hale Talks About Highlighting History Through Cartoons.” Houstonia. 2020. https://www.houstoniamag.com/arts-and-culture/2020/01/graphic-novelist-nathan-hale-history-through-cartoons
Jaffe, Meryl. “Using Graphic Novels in Education.” CBLDF. 2015. http://cbldf.org/2015/10/using-graphic-novels-in-education-nathan-hales-hazardous-tales/