Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: A Hanging Offence
Publish April 24, 2015
Thirteen-year-old Jacob Gibson is caught up in a swirl of historic and personal events he has little control over. Only a year after his mother’s death, his father is marrying again, and Jacob will be in a new family with sisters and a stepmother he’s not sure he likes very much. The War of 1812 is raging and his best friend Eli is on the other side, fighting for the Americans. Despite his young age, Jacob joins the battle of Queenston Heights and experiences the terror, chaos and violence of war first hand. He struggles to do the right thing, but at every turn his allegiances are tested: to his father, to his country, and to his friend. When Eli is arrested as a traitor and faces execution by hanging, Jacob must decide exactly where his strongest loyalty lies. A Hanging Offence, by Don Cummer, is the companion book to Brothers at War, which describes how Jacob, whose family is Loyalist, and Eli, whose family comes from the American South, meet and become friends in the tumultuous lead-up to the War of 1812. Cummer does not shrink from graphic descriptions of death on the battlefield and does an excellent job of weaving complex historical issues and figures into Jacob’s life. The story is dark and frightening, and there is little relief from the anxiety of war. The action in the first part of the book is interrupted by two flashbacks that are somewhat confusing, but after that the story becomes more engaging and builds to an exciting climax. A Hanging Offence brings a pivotal moment in Canadian history to life without simplifying or glorifying the realities of war.
ISBN 13: 978-1-4431-3908-3