Sybil Ludington was a teenage Revolutionary War hero. Sometimes referred to as the “female Paul Revere.” In Jenni L. Walsh’s By the Light of Fireflies, we come to know Sybil’s story in this Middle Grade/YA historical fiction novel.
Sybil’s father, Henry Ludington, is a Loyalist helping the Patriots spy on the British. As his workload grows, he enlists his daughters, Sybil and her sister Rebecca, to join him in his spy work. They work deciphering code written in invisible ink. These messages have important information about British troops and their locations and plans. As the British step up their plans to take control of the Colonies, the Ludington work also picks up.
One night, in the middle of the night, Henry asks his daughter to ride on her horse for 20-40 miles to warn the rural militias of impending British action and to be prepared for war. It’s a dark night and Sybil is nervous, but she knows how important this is, so she calls for the fireflies to help light her way. But that old story is just an old myth, right?
I’ll admit right now that my knowledge of Revolutionary War history doesn’t extend much beyond whatever I learned in middle school and – no shock here – Sybil Ludington was never a part of that education.
I really liked reading Sybil’s (and Henry’s) story. Because of our middle school education, we tend to know how important the Revolutionary War was to the forming of our country. We know the names of George Washington and Paul Revere and maybe a few others, but there were SO many people who risked their lives by working against the British crown toward independence. Sybil’s is probably just one of many stories that we could read about this great event. But that Sybil was a teenage girl makes this engaging and empowering to young readers.
The firefly aspect is cute and Walsh ties it in nicely, but it does feel just a little forced. The historical aspects of the story flow so nicely that Sybil’s calling out to the fireflies for help near the end almost diminishes her own strength in the heroic act she performs.
Looking for a good book? By the Light of Fireflies by Jenni L. Walsh provides an empowering history lesson while thrilling young readers with action and spy intrigue.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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By the Light of Fireflies
author: Jenni L. Walsh
publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
paperback, 186 pages