Hale, Nathan. Big Bad Ironclad, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Book 2. New York: Amulet Books, 2012.
Big Bad Ironclad is not a new title, and it probably is in many collections already, so why add it to this list now? Book 10 in the Hazardous Tales Series was just released in November 2020 (Blades of Freedom), and the series shows that good things can happen for students when history gets the graphic novel treatment.
Big Bad Ironclad tells the story of the Merrimack (renamed the Virginia) and the Monitor, the two first ironclad ships in the American and Confederate navies, and the plan called Anaconda to blockade Confederate ports.
Throughout the Hazardous Tales series, Nathan Hale, (the not-so-good spy from the American Revolution, not the author) delays his hanging by telling stories about history. Luckily, he knows future history as well as past history, and has similar sense of humor as Nathan Hale, the author. Literally gallows humor. As funny and engaging as they are, these books are well-researched, characters are developed and have personalities, and stories are accessible and accurate. A must have for any elementary library, and perhaps middle school libraries, too.
Dewey: 973.7 Interest Level: Grades 3-7
Awards and Reviews: Horn Book Guide starred, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA).
Younger readers might like: The Mad Scientist Academy series by Matthew McElligott
Older readers might like: Max Axiom, Super Scientist Series by various authors.
Fiction pairing: A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin by Karen Hesse (A Dear America book).
On the web: The Nathan Hale YouTube Channel – Learn more about comics, inking, drawing, and history at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3DbpqPsF1nzFiBoJqFeKpw.
The Monitor and Merrimack on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQpdUOwFIac.
Find photographs and portraits of Lt. William B. Cushing at https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/us-people/c/cushing-william-barker.html