Tongue of Flame Critical Essays

Milton Meltzer


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In a brief afterword, Meltzer states that the quotations in the book are taken “from authentic records” and that incidents depicted are “never invented,” but are “reconstructed from passages in her own letters or other writings.” This biography therefore is not a fictionalized account, but is an attempt at an honest depiction drawn from Child’s own words.

It is clear from the tone of the book that Meltzer admires and respects the strength, vision, tenacity, capabilities, selflessness, and purposefulness of his subject. Because the biographer stringently adheres to his intent not to fictionalize, however, the tone is never adulatory or fawning. Indeed, Meltzer reveals Child’s faults to his readers: She was against unconditional emancipation at first, and she was slow to accept Lincoln.

Although this is essentially a chronological, full-life account of Child, Meltzer makes it more believable and infinitely more interesting to the reader by highlighting events of the period and by describing in detail the locales in which Child lived and worked. The Childs’ experimental farm, which grew produce usually raised only in the South so that Southern food could be boycotted, is minutely depicted so that the reader readily understands how hard this rugged life was on both husband and wife.

When Child moved to New York to edit an abolitionist newspaper, she wrote a newspaper column for the Boston Courier, called “Letters from New York,” which were collected into a book. From this book,...

(The entire section is 629 words.)