By Russell Freedman
Cover image retrieved from
Freedman, Russell. 2010. LAFAYETTE AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Holiday House. New York. ISBN 978-0-8234-2182-4.
At just nineteen years old Gilbert de Lafayette went against his family’s wishes to flee France and travel to America, seeking to lead a regiment in the colonists’ quest for freedom from Britain. Lafayette quickly became fast friends with General George Washington, and distinguished himself as a worthy leader and faithful friend of the Americans, despite his lack of experience in battle. Following a key role in the American victory at Yorktown, Lafayette returned to France to play a pivotal role in French Revolution and the future of French politics.
Gilbert de Lafayette is a misunderstood figure of great importance in the American Revolution. In this well-organized biography, Russell Freedman brings the man to life, shedding light on his background, motivation, and dedication to the cause of liberty, both in America and in France. Material is organized into chapters that are kept lively by frequent inclusion of illustrations. Though the pictures are all historic paintings and drawings, which are well documented in the back, they break up the text nicely. The text is a bit heavy at times, stark and straightforward. The information is necessary to adequately tell the story of this remarkable man, but is best taken in small doses. Primary document excerpts are used frequently, authenticating the context and information relayed here. A timeline and selected bibliography allow the reader to continue research, if desired.
Freedman, an award-winning author of several biographies and history books, knows his subject well. He presents the most important aspects of Lafayette’s life, bringing emotion and empathy to this foreigner who greatly impacted the American Revolution, both with his military leadership and aristocratic ties that led him to favorably influence the French government to aid the Americans. The text is not a light, enjoyable read, but rather a dependable resource for upper elementary to high school students. It would be easier to reference if it had been arranged with subheadings or smaller sections. An excellent index eases the reader’s plight, when attempting to locate specific information. This reliable resource is a valuable addition to any collection of biographies or material concerning the American Revolution.
Newbery Medalist Freedman, biographer and historian to the young, employs his easy-to-read style in chronicling the life of Gen. Gilbert de Lafayette, an unlikely but key player in the American Revolution. A time line, source notes, bibliography, and index complete this thorough account. Ages 10 up. Publishers Weekly
An interesting and useful commentary on selected sources rounds out another superb volume by a master of his craft. (timeline, source notes, index) (Biography. 10 & up) Kirkus Reviews
- Pair this book with a biography of George Washington, such as Washington at Valley Forge by Russell Freedman (Holiday House Press, New York. ISBN-13: 9780823420698) or Big George: How a Shy Boy Became President Washington by Anne Rockwell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York. ISBN-13: 9780152165833). Compare and contrast these military leaders.
- Compose an acrostic bio-poem about Lafayette or Washington. Use descriptive words or phrases to identify the leadership qualities that make him a great leader.
- Challenge students to construct a timeline of at least ten important events from Lafayette’s life.
- Create a map with markers for the battle of the American Revolution. Use a different marker for battles that Lafayette participated in. Create a chart listing American wins and British wins. Write a summary statement of the results of these battles and the eventual outcome of the American Revolution.
- Research other foreigners who fought in the American Revolution, on both sides of the war. Why would residents of another country become involved in a battle that did not directly concern them? Write a journal entry that one of the foreigners might have written, detailing his involvement in the Revolution.
- Other books by Russell Freedman:
Washington at Valley Forge
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights
Give Me Liberty! The Story of the Declaration of Independence
The Life and Death of Crazy Horse
An Indian Winter
The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane