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The Powder Monkey by George Galloway

1stBooks Library, 0759604770, $28.04

Every time young Michael Dooley gazes out from the family cooperage in Baltimore he witnesses history in the making; in 1812, Michael's home country has no time to relish the fruits of its independence as it teeters on the brink of another war with Britain. Between shifts at work and the hours put in at St. Patrick's Free School under the stern Father John Moranville, Michael absorbs the tension of the time generated by heated conversations of the cooperage's patrons - Federalists debate with Republicans and vice-versa, while Michael's Uncle Bob expends his energy ducking the watchful eye of the parish

For all the excitement, Michael maintains a strong focus on his father's pending homecoming from a cruise, longing for the day his father will reveal to him the treasured family code followed by generations of Dooleys, words of wisdom design to shape his moral character and future. When Michael's father is instead pressed into service by the British navy to fight against America, Michael's focus shifts to the sea as he signs up to work as a "powder monkey" on the next cruise out of Baltimore. Here the treasured family code is applied to his daily life, as Michael's adventures take him halfway across the world to aid others in the fight for personal and religious freedom.

Galloway's enthusiasm for early American history is infectious, and with The Powder Monkey he offers a meticulously-researched story that captures beautifully the growing pains of a young country as seen through the eyes of powder monkey Michael Dooley. Don't let the title and subject of the book fool you into thinking this book is solely targeted toward male readers, either, for Michael's interaction with his classmate Jessica (a girl after every modern woman's heart) make for some of the best scenes in The Powder Monkey. Any parent seeking an alternative to Harry Potter mania should consider this title for their young adult readers, as well as for themselves.

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