Cover image for A spy called James : the true story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War double agent
Title:
A spy called James : the true story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War double agent
ISBN:
9781467749336
Physical Description:
30 unnumbered pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Reading Level:
940 L Lexile
Genre:
Added Author:
Summary:
This is the true story of James Lafayette, a slave who spied for George Washington's army during the American Revolution. But while America celebrated its newfound freedom, James returned to slavery. His service hadn't qualified him for the release he'd been hoping for. For James the fight wasn't over; he'd already helped his country gain its freedom, now it was time to win his own.
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Summary

Summary

Told for the first time in picture book form is the true story of James Lafayette--a slave who spied for George Washington's army during the American Revolution. But while America celebrated its newfound freedom, James returned to slavery. His service hadn't qualified him for the release he'd been hoping for. For James the fight wasn't over; he'd already helped his country gain its freedom, now it was time to win his own.


Author Notes

Anne Rockwell was born in Memphis, Tennessee on February 8, 1934. She moved to New York City at the age of 18 and found a job doing typing work for a textbook publisher. She studied at Pratt Graphic Arts Center and at the Sculpture Center.

She became an author and illustrator. Her first children's book, Paul and Arthur Search for the Egg, was published in 1964. Her other books included Boats, Fire Engines, Things That Go, Our Earth, and Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth. She collaborated on several books with her husband Harlow Rockwell including Sally's Caterpillar and The Toolbox. After her husband's death, she collaborated with her daughter Lizzy Rockwell. Their books included Career Day and Zoo Day. She died of natural causes on April 10, 2018 at the age of 85.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rockwell (Hey, Charleston!) delivers a striking portrait of James Lafayette, an African-American spy critical to the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Enslaved by a Virginia farmer and known only as James, he worked with the French general Marquis de Lafayette (whose surname James later adopted) in exchange for freedom. Pretending to be a runaway slave, James infiltrated British troops, and "information he passed to Lafayette allowed the colonial army to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown." The succinct narrative explains a complicated wartime story using a conversational tone (General Lafayette is "the French general with names to spare"). Cooper's (Ira's Shakespeare Dream) appealing oil-and-erasure illustrations affirm his skill as a gifted portrait artist. Settings recede into the background as close-ups of James, George Washington, Charles Cornwallis, and others bring emotion to the tale, revealing feelings of dejection, pride, and determination. Final pages and an author's note explain how James continued to fight for his freedom several years after the war and how Lafayette aided him in securing it. Ages 7-11. Author's agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

A Virginia slave named James became a double agent during the Revolutionary War. James gave misinformation to Benedict Arnold and the British, helping win the colonies' freedom--but not his own. French general Lafayette, outraged, successfully fought for James's freedom; James took his name in tribute. The engaging true story includes evocative sepia-toned art created with oils and erasure and an informative author's note. Reading list. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

Two years prior to the close of the Revolutionary War, an enslaved man in Virginia named James asks to help defeat the British by becoming a spy in exchange for his freedom. Working under the command of General Lafayette, James infiltrates General Cornwallis' troops by posing as a runaway slave and eventually becomes a double agent. Although Cornwallis surrenders and the U.S. wins the war in 1783, James does not receive the freedom he expected, and three years pass before Lafayette writes a certificate declaring James' independence. Rockwell's engaging narrative shines a light on the little-­known story of a key African American player in a pivotal moment in American history. Rockwell's engaging, straightforward paragraphs are well matched by Cooper's stunning, soft-focus oil paintings, which add drama, thanks to the figures' expressive faces, from James' sly, knowing glances to the reader to his deflated aspect after the injustice of being denied what was promised him. With a compelling story and appealing artwork, this inviting foray into American history will catch the attention of many readers.--Lock, Anita Copyright 2016 Booklist


School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-Anne Rockwell's exquisitely written picture book biography about an unknown African American hero of the Revolutionary War is noteworthy on many levels. The addition of the richly textured illustrations of Floyd Cooper makes it a winning selection. Everyone knows the names Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington and their contributions to the establishment of the United States. Lesser known are the 5,000 enslaved people who fought in the revolution, and even less known is the story of James, an enslaved person who spied as a double agent for General Lafayette. Aristocratic British General Cornwallis paid no attention to James and accepted his services as a guide and forager without suspecting James was listening to his battle plans and examining his maps. James's courage was remarkable, as he brought vital information to Lafayette and returned to Cornwallis with misleading intelligence. His work led to the capturing of Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown. When James's petition for freedom was denied, an outraged Lafayette wrote a certification to the Virginia legislature, which finally relented two years later. A bonus track with an author's note details Rockwell's use of primary sources, such as government documents and tax records. Rodney Gardiner and Qarie Marshall narrate, and Lafayette's passionate certificate praising James appears word by word on the screen. VERDICT This account of an unsung hero will inform and inspire students to uncover the hidden stories of American history. An outstanding resource for young historians.-Lonna Pierce, MacArthur and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, Binghamton, NY © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

Built from an exhaustive search of a mostly unwritten history, Rockwells account recasts the American Revolution from the experience of one of the courageous thousands who fought to gain independence from British rulean independence that did not equate to freedom for the enslaved black population. While it is popularly known that many more Africans fought alongside the British than the patriots, here Rockwell introduces James, who, upon hearing that an enslaved man could gain his freedom by fighting for the Colonies, volunteers and spies on Gen. Cornwallis. The intelligence James gathers is critical to the decisive American victory at Yorktown, yet freedom is stalled until the Marquis de Lafayette demands James manumission, leading to James choice of surname as the text proclaims him finally free! However, the authors note reminds readers that the legal freedom of the entire enslaved black population in the United States stands almost a century and another war away. A narrative that is deserving of much nuance (the free James Lafayette may have become a slave owner himself, the authors note also informs readers) goes without much critical examination, and the narrow records on which it was built provide more insight about the decisions of those around him than the man himself. Readers are left with a story that tries to honor the role African-Americans played in the American Revolution while clinging to a linear history of the United States as always moving forward. With new historical narratives complicating the period for adults, this well-meant picture book comes off as timid rather than disruptive, leaving children with the usual incomplete story, albeit with an African-American protagonist. (further reading) (Informational picture book. 7-11) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.