Like the black-and-white illustrations that grace Ten Brave Men, the subjects are themselves portrayed in starkly contrasting terms: They are exceptionally noble, and those who oppose them are motivated by base motives and evil intentions or are simply too obtuse to concede that the triumph of virtue is the wave of the future. Consequently, in order to advocate a select set of character traits and ideals, Daugherty has produced a simplistic work. Readers are expected to focus on what Daugherty perceives as practical examples of estimable values being tested in the crucible of events.
Daugherty has a right to the exercise of such literary license, however, as long as she spins interesting tales—and that is a goal that she has accomplished well for a young readership. One must side with Bradford, determined to establish a colony devoted to God as he faced down members of the Mayflower band, whose prime motivation was the reaping of profits. The reader is also led to admire Williams, who was driven from the religious tyranny of Massachusetts Bay and forced during winter to deliver himself into the hands of Native American tribes and the New England wilderness in his search for a place to practice religious freedom. In addition the British are portrayed as guilty of systematically eroding English liberties in America; therefore, it is natural to rally to the Sons of Liberty and Adams as they plot the Boston Tea Party.
To further enlist the empathies of her junior readers, Daugherty recounts portions of each episode as they ostensibly unfolded before youthful witnesses. As Jones, with two smaller ships, eases his vessel out of a French...
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Daugherty’s Ten Brave Men is a well-executed exercise in mythologizing designed to instill or reinforce the values associated with combinations of strong character and idealism in young readers. Her prose and her husband’s dramatic illustrations create an atmosphere of historical verisimilitude in each chapter, and the level of interest throughout has been kept high. These are among the reasons that the author’s works have won praise or have been considered for children’s writers awards and for school use.
Weighed narrowly in terms of historical accuracy, however, the treatment of Daugherty’s ten subjects leaves much to be desired. Adams, for example, did not instigate the Boston Tea Party, was not one of the Sons of Liberty, and in fact was later than most of his leading contemporaries in seeking a break between the Colonies and Great Britain. Lincoln’s overriding wartime objective was the preservation of the Union: His Emancipation Proclamation came only after pressure from Northern abolitionists made his reelection dubious, and it freed very few slaves because most of them lived within the still-undefeated Confederacy. Each chapter is subject to similar critiques of its accuracy. Therefore, it is more important to recognize that Daugherty tells a fine tale and informs her readers in other ways.