Dolley Madison, the White House, and the Big Tornado

by Alice Boynton (Author) Massimiliano Di Lauro (Illustrator)

Dolley Madison, the White House, and the Big Tornado
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

★ Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Many people know the story of Dolley Madison, one of the first First Ladies to live in the White House, and how she saved the famous painting of George Washington as the British attacked and burned Washington, D. C. But few know what happened next. With the U.S. soldiers in retreat and Dolley fleeing, what drove the British soldiers out of the city they were intent on destroying? Was it really a tornado? Or was it something else?

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-5--Boynton and Blevins chronicle the events preceding and immediately following Dolley Madison's famous rescue of George Washington's portrait from the burning of the White House. The book opens at dawn on August 24, 1814, as the British prepare to launch their attack on Washington, DC. When it becomes clear that it is no longer safe to remain in the White House, Madison orders the painting be removed for safekeeping. What follows is the destruction of the country's capital, and ultimately, a violent thunderstorm that limits the spread of the flames. Alternating spreads offer the perspective of the Americans in the city, followed by the British army. Di Lauro's striking illustrations portray the American point of view primarily in shades of blue, while the British outlook is a variety of reds. Some illustrations may disturb younger readers, such as one portraying a British soldier shot from his horse. Viewpoints range from Dolley Madison to an American soldier, a British lieutenant, and a young enslaved boy, to name a few. Back matter includes further information about notable figures seen throughout the book as well as facts about the time period. VERDICT A stunningly illustrated exploration of a notable historical event, this is a timely and excellent addition to historical collections.--Olivia Gorecke, Cape May County Library, Ocean View, NJ

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Introducing the events of the Burning of Washington, Boynton and Blevins follow Dolley Madison (1768-1849) through a fateful event: the British invasion of the U.S. capital during the War of 1812. Densely packed, small-font paragraphs integrate quotes and rhetorical questions: "Admiral Cockburn and his troops regroup to rest and care for their wounded. They will wait for dusk to make their next move./ Will that give Dolley enough time to escape?" An off-putting illustration of Madison as a potential "war prize" may disturb, but di Lauro otherwise offers atmospheric, shadow-emphasizing spreads rendered largely in red and blue. Extensive back matter offers brief epilogues for each character, additional historical anecdotes, and a bibliography. Ages 10-up. (May)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2021
Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

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