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Reviewed by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers' Favorite
Did you know that the Revolutionary War was fought not just in the thirteen colonies? Or that the British supplied the Indians with guns and powder so they would kill colonists who lived in the frontier? Simon Kenton Unlikely Hero: Biography of a Frontiersman by Karen Meyer is no ordinary colonial history book. The story begins in 1771 when Simon Kenton, aged 16, flees his Virginia home, afraid he will be charged with murder. He travels to the frontier where he develops a talent for tracking, path finding and scoping out land. In the process, he takes part in the war and becomes a protector to many pioneers settling in Kentucky and Ohio. Kenton’s fame and influence rises quickly and he assists some of the great generals of the times. He saves the life of Daniel Boone and he survives grueling torture at the hands of Indians, narrowly escaping being burned alive.
One reason Simon Kenton is not a household name may be because he never learned to read or write. Karen Meyer did a great deal of research in order to put together his biography. Simon Kenton Unlikely Hero is marketed for grades 4-6, but I think the suggested age should be extended through eighth grade. The history of Simon Kenton is so exciting that it will tempt even the most reluctant student to want to know more. Reading this book first could serve as a great jumping-off point to study the more traditional history of the Revolutionary War (and also the War of 1812). Kids aren’t going to fall asleep reading this one! The book includes questions for reflection at the end of each chapter, frequent clear maps and a glossary for unfamiliar terms. There are a few references to Christian faith as it relates to Kenton and the revival tent meetings that were common at the time. Kenton battles many Indians, but he also protects and respects other Indians. This was a rough time for both Indians and pioneers, and Karen Meyer paints an even-handed portrait of this slice of history.