By the Light of Fireflies
A Novel of War Hero Sybil Ludington
by Jenni L. Walsh
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Pub Date 02 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2021
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
The author will be virtually visiting schools in the fall of 2021. For more information and to schedule a visit for your school, please reach out to Jenni directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"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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Average rating from 87 members
Middle grade readers will love this story! Based on a real life heroine who out rode Paul Revere. It’s a story set during the Revolutionary War about friendship, family, spies, sisters, courage, horses and a touch of magic in the form of fireflies.
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 that unlocks the courage, determination, and power that lives inside all of us. I cannot wait to share this book with my fifth-grade readers and writers.
There are so many people and events in our history that remain hidden. While I understand that this book is historical fiction, the main character was someone documented as not only being alive during this time but instrumental in the way she is depicted in the book. Women, in this case, a young child, often find themselves under-documented in history. I love that this story has the ability to spur excitement and curiosity to dig further into the untold stories of our past.
Jenni Walsh has a way of breathing life into strong women in history and this was right on target. I was immediately sucked into this story with our main character Sybil Ludington. I adored her relationship with Johny Whittaker and how she called him by his full name, and the way she loved her horse Star, and even the evolving relationship with her sister Rebecca, her co-spy. This is a delightful and easy read, giving young readers a peek into history, all with a touch of magic in the enchantment of fireflies. Also that cover--swoon!
Young Sybil Ludington loves being a spy. Her father pulls her into this adventure during the early days of the American Revolution. After learning how to decode secret messages, Sybil, with the help of her horse, Star, and the fireflies, becomes an invaluable rider protecting the New York countryside. Told in a first person voice, this delightful tale of a female heroine is an exciting and adventurous tale for children, which imparts important Revolutionary War history. Highly recommended for teachers and students learning about this time period in school!
Listen, my readers, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of..... Sybil Ludington? The tale of the often unknown hero of the Revolution, By the Light of Fireflies weaves history and a touch of magic to bring middle grade readers the story of Sybil and her own nighttime ride to change the tide of the war. Sybil was only sixteen when she made her own incredible journey, typically overshadowed by Paul Revere's famous ride thanks to the poem. Sybil's ride was a tremendous feat not only for a teenage girl at that time but also for the difficulties she faced. Walsh weaves a beautifully written tale of Sybil and her family through the war. Her father is involved with General Washington and his spies, trying to defeat the British. This puts the family at risk from the Redcoats and there are several close calls that made me hold the book with white knuckles. Sybil is a role model for young girls who dare to dream big and wish to make a difference in the world that so often holds them back. The book, told from Sybil's perspective, is detailed and full of insights into Sybil's home life and her thoughts as her family navigates a world torn apart by war and the fight for freedom. Sybil's father tells her the legend that fireflies are magic. Sybil calls upon them during the story to help her in times of need. Then her father needs her to take a twenty to forty mile ride in the rain in the middle of the night to alert the militia to Redcoat activities and prepare for battle. She calls upon the strength of the fireflies and her horse Star to help her complete the overwhelming challenge. Will the fireflies answer her call? Walsh's tale sets the scene, drawing the reader into the time of the Revolution with period appropriate language and beautiful scenes and descriptions of Sybil's life. The scenes of her ride are full of action and suspense making for a gripping read about a fascinating figure in history. Readers are sure to fall in love with this book.
What an adventure! Sybil’s journey is worth reading! You are going to love her! I can’t wait to see what Jenni digs up from history next!!
This book is going to be a big hit! Tells the little-known story of Sybil Ludington in a personal, engaging way. Perfect for 3rd-5th grade readers, especially those who shy away from lengthier books. Jenni Walsh tells the story masterfully!
Wow, what a suspenseful, adventure this book was! Sybil’s dad talks about the magic of fireflies, and Sybil finds fireflies helping her out when she least expected to see them, in her need to help her family during the Revolutionary War. Sybil becomes a heroine in many ways, and George Washington even thanks her for her heroism as a messenger for the Continental Army. This will make a great read aloud. Such a great book!
Both the title and the illustration of the cover intrigued me. I always like trying to predict why a book is its particular title and how it relates to the story. This story did not disappoint. The fireflies play a very important role in the development of this story.
Sybil aches for adventure. She feels held back by her age. This will resonate with younger readers. Sybil is invited by her father to help in the revolutionary cause for freedom. The story moved with ease, kept my interest and became so intense that I could not stop reading!
I will purchase this novel for my 4th grade daughter, as well as using it in my own classroom.
Brilliant retelling of Sybil’s story. I promise that you will stand up and cheer Sybil on throughout her nighttime adventure and gasp at the twists and turns in this story.
This book in 3 words, ‘inspirational’, ‘magical’ and ‘powerful’!
The author wrote the book in such a heartfelt way, describing each detail that you can see and feel it, the way she describes the terror, it’s as if you are there around 250 years ago, reliving what the war hero Sybil Ludington might have lived on the famous night in which she saved the day ( or night xD).
The magical part has to be how the fireflies guide her, how Sybil believes in them is so touching!!!
And the book in itself which follows Sybil’s story is so inspirational, it shows that even in the 18th century when there were so close minded people, Girl Power still existed and girls are just as powerful (if not more as boys).
Like I am still speechless at how the author has described the story so well!!!!
My rating definitely 5 out of 5!!
This is the story of Sybil Ludington and her involvement with her father and sister in a spy ring during the American Revolution. Her father was a loyalist turned patriot who led a spy ring for George Washington. With the help of Sybil and her sister, Rebecca, they decoded secret messages to help win the war. Sybil looked up to Paul Revere for his midnight ride and then became in a position where she had to do the same thing. Great read for 4th grade and up and those studying the American Revolution.
I love historical fiction, especially stories set during the revolution, and this book captured my heart from the first page. Jenni Walsh did an amazing job of sharing the story of a young heroine. Walsh also seamlessly wove the magic of fireflies throughout. The story of Sybil Ludington is one to remember. A great addition to any classroom unit on the Revolutionary War.
This was a very interesting historical fiction about a heroic Patriot during the Revolutionary War. This Patriot knew the dangers of getting caught by the Loyalists/British but persisted nonetheless. This Patriot was not the famously known Paul Revere but little know and equally heroic Sybil Ludington. She was the eldest of Colonel Henry Ludington and his wife’s twelve children.
When General George Washington asked Sybil’s father to create a spy ring, he enlisted the help of his two oldest children, Sybil and Rebecca, since they knew how to read and write. They learned spy codes and then decoded these messages for their father and others. These messages were deliver by other Patriot spies such as Enoch Crosby.
After a large army of British soldiers laid siege to Danbury, Colonel Ludington’s militia of four hundred men were needed as soon as possible. But there was a major problem. They had gone back to their homes and were spread out all over the countryside. They needed a rider to spread this urgent message to gather and march south. Since the Colonel was needed to lead the troops, Sybil bravely volunteered. So sixteen year old Sybil rode, but unlike Paul Revere, she traveled forty miles alone through the dark rainy nighttime woods. Revere, almost twice Sybil’s age when he took his famous ride was accompanied by two other men for part of his journey. Sybil’s ride was also three times the distance. Most importantly for Sybil, she was never captured, unlike her idol.
This was a well written and quick read with many tense scenes such as the near capture of Colonel Ludington and the dangers Sybil faced during that all important night ride. The magic of the fireflies also added nicely to the story.
This book is highly recommended for middle school classrooms and libraries. Over the years, Sybil Ludington has gained some recognition for her heroic feat. Hopefully, this book will add to that recognition even more and perhaps empower children to believe that they too can make a difference when called upon.
An ARC was given for an honest review.
Sybil Ludington is the daughter of a farmer and, born in 1761, she is destined to become nothing more than a farmer’s wife. But Sybil dreams of bigger things, especially when her father shares exciting stories about the brave men who are fighting for her country’s independence. In Ludington family lore, fireflies have appeared at important moments to signal both opportunity and danger. When fireflies lead Sybil to an orphaned horse, the course of both her own future and that of the United States is forever altered.
Based on the true life of Sybil Ludington, this historical fiction novel deftly combines the limited information available about Sybil’s brave actions with the magic of fireflies. The author has carefully researched the time in which Sybil lived, and facts about the American Revolutionary War are woven into the fabric of this story, educating readers while entertaining them. Concise chapters and expert pacing keep the story moving forward as Sybil’s tale unfolds.
As the oldest of her many siblings, Sybil has a great deal of responsibility around the farm, but she dreams of more. Even though it is atypical of the time period, circumstances arise that permit Sybil the opportunity to act in ways usually only boys are allowed to do. Sybil’s bravery and intensity are compelling, especially as she finds herself thinking far ahead of the time she was born into. Rich relationships with friends and family round out the story, and readers will be magnetically drawn to each of the primary characters in this novel.
An author’s note at the end of the book details what is true and what has been fabricated for the sake of fictional storytelling. Though relatively little is known about Sybil Ludington’s life, painstaking care was given to ensure as much of her truth was included in the novel as possible. Beautifully executed, this story will have readers on the edges of their seats, curious to learn more about this unexpected heroine and the time in which she lived. This is a highly recommended addition to historical fiction collections for middle grade readers.
This was my first book by Jenni Walsh and now I need to read everything she has written! The story immediately drew me in. By the light of Fireflies is about Sybil Ludington, the often unknown hero of the Revolution.
I adored Sybil’s relationship with Johnny Whittaker and how she called him by his full name, and the way she loved her horse Star, and even the evolving relationship with her sister Rebecca, her co-spy. This is a delightful and quick read. It gives us a peek into history, all with a touch of the magic of fireflies.
This story was inspirational, magical and powerful-I can’t recommend it enough!
I really loved this story, and even more so when I learned it was based on a real historical figure, Sybil Ludington. Although there is very little documentation or details known, the author was able to incorporate what she could find and historical details from other people to create her fictional Sybil Ludington. This is a middle school book, but I really enjoyed getting to know this girl who was unusual for her time. Her midnight ride was absolutely thrilling and it had my heart beating faster. I have never heard of this woman, but I'm glad this author wrote this book the share her story. While she is often known as the female Paul Revere, as the author points out, he should have been called the male Sybil Ludington because she rode her ride alone (he started his ride with two other people), she was half his age, and she traveled 3x's the distance. And she did it without being captured. But she was also female, which probably explains why there wasn't much said about her ride. Whether this story is 90% true, 75% true, 50% true, or even 10% true, I hope it inspires the imaginations of many young girls who are told they can't do something because they're "only" girls.
I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of By the Light of Fireflies!
This is a truly amazing middle-grade historical fiction novel about Revolutionary War hero Sybil Ludington. It tells the story of young Sybil growing up in a Patriot family at the start of the Revolutionary War and gives a harrowing account of her historic ride to rouse the local militia to fight against the British. It also paints a beautiful portrait of her relationship with her family, especially her father, Colonel Ludington, and her sister, Rebecca. The story is beautifully told, and the characters all had so much depth to them. The author also incorporates a small element of magical realism, the appearance of fireflies at crucial moments in the story, to add to the enchantment and beauty of the story. I loved the way the author portrayed such strong female characters and showed how even young girls can be instrumental in major world events. I think it is so important for young girls to have such strong role models!!
This is an amazing book for all ages, middle grade and up, to read and enjoy! Highly recommend!!
this was a beautifully done children's novel, it was a well written and a fun read. I enjoyed learning about Sybil Ludington and enjoyed reading this.
If you haven't heard of Sybil Ludington yet, this is your chance. At the age of sixteen, she rode her horse forty miles in a circuit to help muster the Patriots in neighboring villages. Her ride was three times the length of Paul Revere's ride AND she never got captured. I had heard bits and pieces about her over the years and was so glad to see this book was coming out. It is historical fiction, but based on facts with some magical realism (fireflies) to up the enchantment level. Sybil's father was Colonel Henry Ludington. When General George Washington asked Colonel Ludington to assist him by putting together a spy ring, Ludington recruited his two oldest daughters (tweens) to work for him. He started by having them write with their eyes closed to learn to use invisible ink. In addition to the exciting spy bits, there is much here about family love and sibling support. It was such a treat to spend time with Sybil and her family. I will definitely be recommending this book to middle grade readers at my library.
Thank you to Wyatt-McKenzie Publishing and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
By the Light of Fireflies is a highly recommended book for all ages (not just middle grade) and for so many reasons! It explores love of country, love of family, loyalty, friendship, and so much more. Though this book is filled with adventure and danger, I was moved to tears several times by such a remarkable story and the relationships between the characters. I hope you give this book a try and spread the word, it is truly a special book about an incredible American heroine who deserves to not be forgotten.
Thank you to Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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