(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the foreword, Felton explains his decision to devote several early chapters to the events that preceded Sampson’s actual enlistment and military experiences. He documents a general agreement among sources that she began dressing as a man when she was twenty-one and that it was at least a year later that she enlisted. To account for this year, he creates scenes loosely based on several contradictory sources to explain how Sampson prepared to become a soldier. The chapters focusing on events during her military career proceed from a more factual basis, as do the concluding chapters that describe her discharge according to “written testimonials of good service and good conduct” and her subsequent marriage. There are three themes, all introduced in the foreword, that Felton has woven throughout Deborah Sampson: historical events as anchors for scenes from Sampson’s life, the author’s admiration for the subject of his biography, and Felton’s concern with Sampson’s reputation.

Each of the chapters integrates historical facts and events with fictionalized scenes from Sampson’s life. By combining fact with narrative, Felton holds the interest of young readers while acquainting them with information that is historically accurate. Felton’s use of invented scenes and dialogue helps young readers to identify with Sampson, to understand her motivation, and to care about her as a person.

Felton’s admiration for Sampson is...

(The entire section is 594 words.)