Title: Caroline’s Battle
Author: Kathleen Ernst
Illustrators: Robert and Lisa Papp
Pages: 90 pages
Publisher/Date: American Girl Publishing, c2012
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
“A few dozen British men and some of their Indian allies rowed ashore several miles west of here,” the officer said. “As soon as the wind picks up, though, the British fleet will surely head for Sackets Harbor and try to land a huge force near the village.” […]
The officer waved his hand toward the shipyard. “I need these men to help defend Navy Point.”
Caroline caught her breath. She saw the men exchanging worried glances and heard them muttering in protest. “We’re needed here, to guard the gun boat!” one of the carpenters shouted.
“With so many of the American troops away, our position is desperate,” the officer snapped. “We need every man to fight.”
“But–but sir,” Caroline stammered, “who will defend our shipyard?” (28-29)
When the British decide to attack the town of Sackets Harbor while the majority of the military is away, every man is called into action to defend against the landing party. This leaves Caroline and her mother to guard the gunboat being constructed in the family operated shipyard. The British cannot be allowed to gain access to the almost completed gunboat, much less the building plans or the navy instructions housed in the office, and Caroline and her mother are ordered to burn the ship if the fighting goes bad. But with signal fires flaring and the sound of gunfire approaching, will Caroline follow orders or her heart when she’s called to action?
One point in the story that really struck me is when Caroline asks her mother “How do you know when it’s right to do what you’re told, and when to decide for yourself?” (44) Her mother doesn’t really answer except to say “It is sometimes very difficult. I try to use both my mind and my heart.” I feel though that this is one of the important things that girls discover or figure out as they are growing up is that sometimes you have to make your own decisions and you’ll have to figure out when that time has arrived.
Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was knowing that the events in the book are based on actual events. We learn in the Looking Back section that Sackets Harbor was actually attacked just as described in the story and the outcome was exactly what happens to Caroline and her family. Staying that true to history encourages kids to investigate more and makes everything more believable. I was quite surprised about how close she gets to the fighting again, and I think readers will really bear witness to what it was like during that time.
I feel like the cover could have been done differently, since there are very few details for the background. Understandably the lack of details places the emphasis on Caroline and her torch and it’s effective in raising questions about what she is doing and who she is battling. That cover is just very different from the typical American Girl cover, and there is a stark contrast when compared with the others in the series. The plot however is more of the same intriguing and engaging story line that readers have come to expect.