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Review: ‘Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All Stars’

I’ve read a number of short graphic novels about the Alamo. Those books were fine, but they were aimed at a school library market that was looking to cater to libraries needing accessible reads for assignment purposes. By no means did they spark the love of history like the Nathan Hale series generally does. While those books focused mostly on the actual battle of the Alamo, this graphic novel gives us the backstory that will really help readers understand the history behind the settling of Texas and its war with Mexico.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All Stars
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 2016
Grades 4 and up

alamo all stars9781419719028_s3For those who have never read the series: Nathan Hale is about to be executed in 1776 when a giant history book envelopes him and he becomes an all-knowing history guru. He uses this knowledge to delay his execution as he retells history to his executioners. Hale (the author/artist) tackles the Revolutionary War, The Civil War (Big Bad Ironclad), the Donner Party, World War I, the Underground Railroad, and now the Alamo.

Sometimes when you read an ongoing series, the premise gets a little dry, but Hale proved his genius by introducing additional characters to the hangman’s party. In fact, Hale the storyteller (in the book) and Hale the author/illustrator have totally thrown a curve ball at the beginning of the book, ensuring that the premise would not get stale. Hale’s retelling of the beginning of Texas’s settlement is interrupted as Vicente Guerrero and his three executioners arrive to give this story a more balanced telling.

The story here is rich with details and fascinating historical details. Legendary figures like Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and Will Travis figure prominently in the telling. In addition, a new historical figure was introduced—at least he was new to me: Juan Seguin. If I were better versed in history, I might have read or heard about him, but this was my first introduction.

The artwork is detailed and compelling. The artwork is told in black and white (and gray) with a few yellow accents. And what continues in this series is the humor—in both the artwork and the narration.

Give this to readers who are fans of the series, to that reader who loves history, or any graphic novel fan. This book will surely be a hit.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Abrams.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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