The Notorious Benedict Arnold
Sheinkin, Steve. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2010. 9781596434868
Quantitative Reading Level: Reading Level 7.3 Lexile 990
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
According to the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Informational Text” I would rate this as Middle High. The purpose of the text is to inform the reader of the life of Benedict Arnold and insights into what made him become the traitor he is infamous for being. The author in a way goes beyond simply informing and leads the reader into feeling empathy for Arnold and some respect for his feats that are often overlooked. The book reads like a novel so is lacking in some of the text features. Every so often the point of view switches from Arnold to John Andre. In fact the beginning of the book is told from John Andre’s perspective right before he is hung although the reader does not know that until the end of the book. This switch in point of view is a higher level of organization. Because it is a historical work some of the language is outdated, specific to that time period, or specific to battles, weapons, and places in the Revolutionary War. The graphics aid in understanding some of the battles or campaigns. The reader will do better with the text if he has knowledge of the Revolutionary War.
This book discusses the life of Benedict Arnold from his adventurous youth, to his quest for importance and wealth, through his success and disappointments during the Revolutionary War, and to his failed attempt to end the war with Britain by allowing the British to overtake West Point and capture Washington. Sheinkin does a good job of revealing the possible motives of Arnold and talking about his accomplishments that are often overlooked in our national disdain. The author also parallels the story with that of his accomplice John Andre.
Content Area: Social Studies
Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
During a study of the Revolutionary War students can compare and contrast the treatment/discussion of Benedict Arnold in this book with other biographies, textbooks, articles, and primary sources.
Video of Steve Sheinkin talking about the book and about winning the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults-Winner 2012
I found this book to be very interesting. I was not aware of the many accomplishments of Benedict Arnold before he turned traitor. The March to Quebec is an unrivaled feat through Maine during the fall and early winter of 1775. In addition, Arnold’s contributions during the Battle of Valcour Island and the Battle of Saratoga were amazing. At the very end of the book Sheinkin states “If Arnold had dies from his wounds at the Battle of Saratoga, we would think of him today as one of the all-time great American heroes” (page 306). He then describes a monument at the site of the Battle of Saratoga that alludes to Arnold’s heroism but does not mention his name. These references are haunting. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Subjects/Themes: Revolutionary War, Character, Disillusionment, Patriotism, Pride
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults-Winner 2012
High Interest Annotation:
Benedict Arnold was a traitor. But what happened before he turned traitor? What led him to do it? What happened after?