The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin

benedict arnold
Just the name of history’s original bad boy conjures up connotations of double-crossing and betrayal. Say “Benedict Arnold” to any group of school kids in the country and while they may not be able to come up with his birth and death dates, they can tell you that he was a traitor. In September of 1780, Arnold’s plans to turn over the American fort of West Point to the British were discovered through a series of fascinating mishaps and coincidences, meticulously chronicled in this captivating biography. Though his plot was discovered in time to avoid the capture of West Point, Arnold was forever branded a turncoat. The irony is that Arnold should have gone down in history as a hero. After all, he was known for his courage on the battlefield, his clever attack plans, and his winsome ways with the ladies. But politics, anger and a little thing called ego got in his way. How did one of the bravest champions of the American Revolution end up becoming one of history’s most reviled villains? Rev. War buff and author Steve Sheinkin explains in this detailed, entertaining biography that plots out both the events of Arnold’s life and the life of Major John Andre, the British soldier who also ended up taking the fall for Arnold’s actions. Benedict Arnold: rascally rogue or misunderstood victim? You be the judge after finishing this intriguing biography.

To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story by Casey Scieszka & illustrated by Steven Weinberg

Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg perfectly capture what it’s like to travel the world while simultaneously navigating your first grown-up relationship in this lavishly illustrated travel memoir. Casey, a writer, and Steven, an artist, are in love and can’t wait to start experiencing life post-college. “So here we are, adults. We are no longer required to do anything. It’s liberating! It’s…full of pressure. Because now that we can do whatever we want, we’re constantly asking ourselves: Is this what we want to be doing?” So together they cobble together a year long, grant-funded plan to travel from China, through Southeast Asia and end up in Timbuktu, Mali. On their way, they will work on their art and try to decide what direction their adult lives will take. Of course, it isn’t easy. Casey is plagued by intestinal troubles while Steven is plagued by doubts about his chosen career as an artist. In addition, their travel fortitude is sorely tested by China’s interminable winter, Mali’s exhausting heat, and by trying to stay patient with each other in all temperatures. Still, it’s exhilarating when their Chinese students begin to understand and speak English, or when their neighbors in Bamako, Mali accept them as their own even though they can barely understand each other’s language. But they never stop questioning themselves about their motivations even as they immerse themselves in the culture of the country they’re in. “Oh, the constant paradox of trying to “go native.” How much do you want to live locally? How much do you want to be the foreigner who—look!—does such a good job of living locally?” When they finally get to Timbuktu, you will feel like you traveled right along with them and know them as well as any of your friends. I just loved this book–it’s heart, it’s humor, and especially all the funny little nuggets of information that Casey shares along the way—like how to speak Bamanankan, what to keep in your fanny pack, and where to find the best hand-pulled noodles. A just right summer read even if the furthest place you’ll be going this July is camp.