post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Toliver’s Secret
Author: Esther Wood Brady
Major Themes: New York City, Spying, Family Read-Alouds, Historical Fiction, American Revolution
Synopsis: Grandfather is injured and can’t deliver a vital message; Ellen is too afraid to do it—how will the message get through to General Washington?
A book that we have always enjoyed reading when we learn about the American Revolution is Toliver’s Secret. We’ve been working our way through the books we have access to, which are set during the Revolution, for several months now, and my older children have been asking when we’ll read this one. We finally got to it!
Ellen Toliver and her mother were living with Grandfather in New York City. They had to move there with him after her father was killed in a battle with the redcoats. Her brother was off fighting somewhere—and Ellen and her mother and grandfather had to live among the redcoats. One of Ellen’s daily chores was to get water from the pump, but the big, tough bully of a girl Dicey made life miserable for her. Ellen was afraid of Dicey and ended up going to a different pump for the water the family needed.
One day, Grandfather hurt his ankle and could not deliver a message that General Washington vitally needed to receive. How could the message get through? Ellen was too afraid to deliver the message. Could she muster the courage to do what had to be done? And when she did try, and one thing after another went wrong, was there any way the message would be delivered in time?
Toliver’s Secret is a great story of a girl’s courage when something hard needed to be done. It is a good illustration of what can be done when a person forces herself to do something difficult. I liked the thing that happened at the end, too, when Ellen stood up to Dicey. This would be a good story for a child who is bothered by a bully.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12
Links to buy this book:
Keywords: New York City, Spying, Family Read-Alouds, Historical Fiction, American Revolution