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Sybil Ludington believes in the legend of fireflies—they appear when you need them most. But it's not until her family is thrust into the dangers of the Revolutionary War, and into George Washington's spy ring, that Sybil fully experiences firefly magic for herself—guiding her through the darkness, empowering her to figure out who she's supposed to be and how strong she really is—as she delivers her imperative message and warns against a British attack.
By the Light of Fireflies is the captivating tale of a young girl's journey as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a spy, and eventually a war hero, completing a midnight ride that cements her place in history as the "female Paul Revere."
Recommended for grades 3-7
A Note From the Publisher
"Middle grade fiction readers will find By the Light of the Fireflies a fine historical novel based on the life of Colonial girl Sybil Ludington, following Sybil and her family's struggle during the Revolutionary War...As Sybil steps into a role she'd never envisioned, young readers receive an action-packed story that captures the environment and atmosphere of the times...Jenni L. Walsh is especially adept at capturing Sybil's first-person observations and emotions...These drive a story line that personalizes the history in a manner that makes it understandable, realistic, and quite accessible...Middle grade readers who normally eschew fact-laden historical fiction will find the emotional driving force particularly strong in By the Light of the Fireflies. This approach strengthens the compelling story of a young girl's trials, which forces her into the unexpected role of becoming a female war hero in times where girls and women normally are staid." - Midwest Book Review
"By the Light of Fireflies adds a unique female perspective to a time in our country's history that has been dominated by male voices. Jenni L. Walsh spins an engaging tale, artfully mixing historical fact with fiction that keeps the reader riveted from the first word to the last." - Misty Miller, 5th Grade teacher, Texas Virtual Academy Hallsville
"A historical gem, readers will enjoy learning about Revolutionary War heroine Sybil Ludington and her Patriotic ride. Just like Sybil Ludington sometimes we face a difficult journey which unlocks the courage, determination, and power that lives inside all of us. I can't wait to share this book with my fifth grade readers and writers." - Ginette Garrity, 5th Grade ELA Teacher, Byram Intermediate School
Full Publishers Weekly review, selected as an Editor's Pick ⚡️:
Walsh (I Am Defiance) again brings a powerful woman from history to life with this middle-grade adventure featuring 16-year-old Revolutionary War hero Sybil Ludington. Based on true events, By the Light of Fireflies takes on George Washington’s inner spy ring in the heat of the battle between Patriots and Loyalists, spotlighting the role that young Sybil played during an all night, 40-mile ride through colonists’ territory to muster the militia against an impending British attack. In Walsh’s spirited depiction, Sybil is a courageous, quick-thinking Patriot who dreams of growing up to be something more than a farmer’s wife–and realizes that ambition is within her reach through the fight to advance the revolutionary cause.
Sybil’s father, Henry Ludington, is a Loyalist captain in name only and spends his free time helping Patriots spy on the British. When pressures mount, he enlists Sybil and her sister, Rebecca, to help decipher code written with invisible ink on letters bearing crucial information about the British army, its troops, and their planned maneuvers. This opportunity is a dream come true for Sybil, who idolizes Paul Revere and hopes for her own chance to prove her mettle–a chance that emerges when she gets asked to ride all night in a terrifying crusade to save her family and her country. “I didn’t realize it was weird for me to want to be brave or daring or courageous like a man was,” she memorably declares.
Walsh’s easy, flowing prose breathes life into colonial America. Readers will find themselves in the thick of the Revolutionary War as well as eighteenth-century living: Walsh uses period appropriate language (“Mama shook her head bigly”) and detail, such as a family strategy game of “Nine Man’s Morrice in the parlor,” to capture the feeling of the past, and her handling of the long ride is crisp and suspenseful. History-minded young readers will be roused by this stouthearted protagonist’s unflinching dedication.
Takeaway: Middle-grade historical fiction fans will be swept up in the bravery of one young woman’s fight to save her country against a British attack.
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