Mr. Revere and I was published in 1953. Robert Lawson, who both wrote and illustrated the book, trusts his middle-grade audience. He doesn’t dumb down his vocabulary, expecting readers to understand words like “accoutrement,” “farrier,” and “withers” from the context. Sadly, the 2010 edition I reread added a glossary, an example perhaps of publishers unwilling to trust children quite as much as Lawson did.
Lawson trusts his audience in other ways too. Readers see the characters through Sherry’s eyes, as in this description of her original owner, Sir Cedric Barnstable:
“My Leftenant was the perfect picture of the ideal Military Man. Just turned twenty-one, tall and slender (not spindly, as some said), he had the true proud nose of the conqueror, rather like that of a puffin, but less elaborately colored. He was blessed with splendid strong teeth, not greatly different from my own.”
Savvy readers will infer what Sir Cedric is really like, even without this wonderful illustration.
A strong, spunky protagonist, Sherry’s growth throughout the book is believably and sensitively drawn. Mr. Revere’s kindness and the love of his family lead her to reexamine her beliefs and assumptions about these “unruly louts” rebelling against the Crown’s authority. She begins by admitting reluctantly that some of their arguments have a point, moves to thinking Mr. Revere is kind but misguided, and ends up fearing for the safety of the people of Boston once the British close the port. She imagines children and older people starving “while the warmly clad, overfed soldiers of the King strutted through the deserted streets.” An encounter with her old owner forces her to choose sides once and for all. The story climaxes in the wild ride to warn the minutemen at Medford and Lexington that the redcoats are on the move.
Mr. Revere and I is a satisfying read—thrilling, funny, and moving—and a terrific way for children to learn more about the American Revolution. Luckily, Lawson wrote other books that combined animal protagonists in historical settings, including Ben and Me, I Discover Columbus, and Captain Kidd’s Cat. I would have happily learned all of my history from Robert Lawson’s animal heroes.