History is filled with stories of everyday people who have done extraordinary things. While many of these tales are readily shared in history classes and storybooks, some are less common. Sybil Ludington is an important character in the American Revolution, but it is only recently that her bravery has emerged in books. By the Light of Fireflies by Jenni L. Walsh is a historical fiction novel that presents Sybil’s story in a way that is accessible and compelling for middle grade readers.
Born in 1761, Sybil Ludington finds herself growing up in the shadow of conflict in the American Colonies. As the Revolutionary War gets ever closer, Sybil’s father is called to action in important and dangerous ways. Sybil dreams of more than her inevitable future as a farmer’s wife, but the time in which she lives limits her potential for action beyond the safety of her home. When the light of fireflies guides Sybil to a lonely young horse one night, the trajectory of her life begins to change, offering her more than she could have ever expected. Please see my full review here.
I loved the way this story came together. Expertly researched, the author includes real facts about the Revolutionary War and Sybil Ludington’s life inside a fictional narrative of what the specifics of her reality might have been like. An author’s note at the end connects readers to Sybil’s story as we know it and shares both what is historically recorded and the liberties the author has taken to breathe life into this novel. More than once, I was compelled to fact check pieces of the book, delightfully discovering things I had never known before.
As I was looking closer into the author after finishing the book (as I often do), I discovered I have read some of her other work for children. She focuses on the lives of strong women, writing books for both kids and adults, and brings their stories to the forefront of readers’ minds. This is by far my favorite of the books I have read of hers at this point, especially because Sybil Ludington is a character I knew nothing about before diving in. Walsh’s expert delivery combines historical events with the wonder of family lore in a well-rounded, accessible package.
Middle grade readers will fall easily into Sybil’s adventure. Short chapters and a clear plot keep newer middle grade readers engaged, while the complexity of Sybil’s reality will connect with older readers, as well. Beautifully designed, this is one of those stories that will resonate with you long after the final page is turned. I’m looking forward to reading more literature from Jenni L. Walsh and I highly recommend this story to anyone who appreciates both history and the strong women who saw past the expectations of their time.
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