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Avi. (1987). The Fighting Ground. New York: Harper Collins. 160 pp.

Grade Range: 6-9

Genre: historical fiction

Summary and Critique

    In this unique historically based story, Avi provides a snapshot of Jonathan's day as a soldier. The story is set in 1778 during the Revolutionary War. When the bell at the tavern tolls, Jonathan is ready to bear arms in defense of his country despite his family's objections. At the tavern, the brash Corporal sees that Jonathan is willing to join their ranks and recruits him to fight against the Hessians. As the group of soldiers marches closer to battle, the apprehension and nervousness grows for Jonathan. When the Hessians come into view, Jonathan is astonished by their size and uniformity. A shot rings out and confusion quickly fills Jonathan's mind as he fires his musket towards the enemy. Fear overcomes Jonathan and he runs into the forest, where three Hessian soldiers capture him. As the four march through the night seeking shelter, Jonathan is confronted with a choice to make. Should he be loyal to the patriots defending America, or should he try to save his captors?

    The story is written in a unique historical style. The minute-to-minute accounts offer a chronology of one day in war. The heroism exhibited by young Jonathan is not glorified, but shows the subdued realism of choices made in difficult situations.

Awards

    Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

    ALA Notable Book

Themes/Topics

    Families

    Friends & Enemies

    Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

    Challenges and Triumphs

    War & Peace

    Adventure

Author/Illustrator/Editor Information

    Avi is a prolific contributor to children's literature. He has written over 50 books, including the 2003 Newbery Medalist, Crispin, The Cross of Lead. Avi writes across genres and topics.

For more information on Avi:

Media Connections

Movies/Documentaries

    The Patriot (2000) Benjamin Martin is a patriot who hopes to avoid the war with the British. When two of his sons join the rebellion, and one is executed, Benjamin seeks to avenge his son's death and help free America.

    The Crossing (2000) A dramatic portrayal of General George Washington and his heroic leadership on the Delaware River.

    Dear America: The Winter of Red Snow (1999) This brief movie is the story of one girl and her experiences during the Revolutionary War.

    Liberty! The American Revolution (1998) A PBS documentary, rich with Revolutionary War history. Live action and dramatic narrative frame events throughout our country's foundation.

    Mulan (1998) Mulan is a girl hoping to protect her injured father from going to war. Mulan and Mushu, her dragon, help defend China against the invading Huns.

    Revolution (1985) The story of two fathers-and-sons, one Continental and one British. Al Pacino stars as Tom Dobb, a poor trapper, who becomes an American patriot.

    1776 (1972) The musical rendition of a young country declaring independence from the British tyrants.

    Johnny Tremain (1957) The story of a boy immersed in the pressures and politics of the early Revolutionary movement.

    Television

    Liberty's Kids – any episode (War and Peace; Friends and Enemies)

    American Dreams – any episode (Family; War and Peace)

Music

    "Travelin'Soldier." Words and music by Bruce Robison. Dixie Chicks Home. 2002. (a young girl mourns the loss of her boyfriend who is killed in Vietnam)

    "The Fighting Ground [sound recording]." Read by George Guidall. The Fighting Ground. 1994. (a sound recording of The Fighting Ground by Avi)

Online Resources

Related Texts

    Blackwood, Gary. (2002). The Year of the Hangman. New York: Dutton Children's Books. 261pp. Fifteen-year-old Creighton is forcefully relocated from England to the Americas where he witnesses the American Revolution taking place.

    Bolton, Jonathan. (1992). Joseph Brant: Mohawk Chief. New York: Chelsea House. 111pp. Joseph Brant was a Mohawk chief who sided his tribe with the British during the Revolutionary War.

    Brady, Esther Wood. (1993). Toliver's Secret. New York: Random House. 166pp. A ten-year old girl disguises herself as a boy to deliver a message to General George Washington.

    Collier, James Lincoln. (1974). My Brother Sam is Dead. New York: Four Winds Press. 216pp. The Meeker family is divided between the Rebels and the British during the Revolutionary War.

    Cuyler, Margery. (1999). The Battlefield Ghost. New York: Scholastic Press. 103pp. Two children discover that their house is haunted by the ghost of a Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War.

    Griffin, Judith Berry. (1999). Phoebe the Spy. New York: Scholastic. 47pp. Phoebe, a young African-American servant, attempts to save George Washington's life during the Revolutionary War.

    Hoose, Phillip. (2001). We Were There Too!: Young People in U.S. History. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 264pp. This is a collection of biographies that highlight the lives of young American heroes throughout history.

    Meltzer, Milton. (2003). Hour of Freedom: American History in Poetry. New York: Wordsong. 96pp. A poetry collection of sixty-one pieces tracing America's history through the centuries.

Teaching Ideas

    (1) "Letters Home" After watching the movie Johnny Tremain, the students will write letters to their family, in the voice of Johnny. The students will describe the events they witnessed and experienced during the Revolutionary War.

    (2) "Common Fears" Students create a survey to find out the most common everyday fears children face. The students distribute their surveys to other classrooms. When the surveys are complete, the students compile the results and create a graph of their data. The teacher will display the graphs to promote discussions about fears and courage. [Adapted from "Toliver's Secret" by Michael Foster in The Mailbox Bookbag. Greensboro, NC: The Education Center, Inc. October/November 2001, p. 37.]

    (3)"Military Perspectives" Students will create a venn-diagram to illustrate similarities and differences between American and British soldiers. The students will use the following Web site as a resource for this activity: http://www.pbs.org/ktca/liberty/perspectives_military.html

(Review written by Heidi A. Herold and edited by Jennifer E. Moore)

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