Monday, April 22, 2013

MMGM: Calvert The Raven and The Battle of Baltimore by Jonathan Scott Fuqua

Date Published: March 4, 2013
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bancroft Press

Themes: War of 1812, history, bravery, patriotism, freedom, independence

About The Book: You think history is boring?
Baltimore kid Daniel does--until a chance encounter with a magical talking raven named Calvert sends him flying back to 1814, where he finds his home city under siege by a British army on the verge of defeating the United States of America in the War of 1812.
Amidst the fire of muskets, the thunder of cannons, and the dark approach of the British armada, Daniel discovers just what it took for a young nation to endure the Battle of Baltimore. He witnesses firsthand the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

"History," Calvert tells Daniel, "is watery." And maybe the star-spangled banner won't survive this time.

The beautifully illustrated pages of Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore, the first book of the Flying Through History series, are as close as you can get to the Battle of Baltimore without going back in time yourself.

Author and illustrator J. Scott Fuqua takes you on a harrowing journey through a history of near misses, narrow escapes, and brave soldiers with no idea what tomorrow would bring.

First Line: Daniel searched up through the bright Baltimore sky, where a raven curled in front of the sun.

Funny Line: "Did you make yourself gigantic? Is that how I can fit on your back?"
       "Of course not. I can't do that. I made you small."

What Other's Are Saying: "... The breezy tone and plenty of dialogue will draw in readers, and the dramatic, well-executed watercolors add impact to the telling . . . The descriptions of the fighting—almost hand-to-hand combat—will surprise and inform children, who will also learn something about the causes of the war." —Booklist

"Despite some occasionally weak writing,Calvert the Raven and the Battle of Baltimore succeeds in both areas and is an interesting look at one of the most important battles in American history." —Third Grade Reading

Book Review Bloggers Weigh In:

What I Thought: This is a great jumping off point for anyone trying to teach the history of this important battle. Discussing what Daniel saw, what he didn't see and why they are fighting, all serves to bring the significant details into view. I highly recommend this as a companion to teaching history to 3rd—6th graders.

My Analysis:
1. POV: Third-person limited omniscience, participant.
2. 32 pages
3. The Hook: Calvert the talking Raven "skittered onto the bench" beside Daniel.
4. Inciting event: Calvert convinces Daniel that if he goes on a trip with him, he will convince him that history isn't boring.
5. Plot and Pace: Let alone there are only 32 pages, the pace moves quickly on the page, tension is tight. Plot is straight forward.
6. Voice: I liked that it was present tense, each event unfolding for the reader just like it is for Daniel. In the dialogue, Calvert and Daniel have distinctively different voices. This conversational tone doesn't give the reader much time to doubt the reality of flying on the back of a raven.

About The Author: 
Jonathan Scott Fuqua

Who: "In 1966, I was born outside of Frankfurt, Germany, and my family proceeded to relocate 11 times before I was 14 years old. New schools and situations were a constant fixture in my life until, on my 14th birthday, my mother put a stop to our travels and settled us in her family's home in Norfolk, Virginia. Except for art classes, I had, to that point, never enjoyed school. I was embarrassed that I couldn't memorize simple math formulas and that I spelled so poorly. Even though I was actually a pretty good student, it was always a struggle for me." —Author's Website

When: "After high school, I attended The College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I began concentrating on art and art history. During my sophomore year, however, I took an adolescent literature course. Entranced by the language and subject matter — and despite my poor spelling — I tested into a fiction-writing class, where I began scratching out a succession of half-decent autobiographical short stories." —Author's Website

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Next Week: Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice


  1. Thanks for telling us about this book. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine. I'll be ordering this one up.

  2. You always find such interesting titles, Pam. (But at 32 pages, this sounds more like a picture book than straight middle grade.)

  3. HI Michael,
    I see what your saying, but there are only a couple of pictures (great ones), but I see what your saying about the length. The subject matter and the vocabulary is what I think brings it up to low middle grade, I think. This is a perfect historical fiction for 9-11 year olds. It probably fits more in the chapter book category. Thanks for stopping by!


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