Fradin, D. B., & Day, L. (ill.) (2008). Duel! Burr and Hamilton’s deadly war of words. New York: Walker & Company. ISBN: 9780802795830
Annotation: Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton never got along, bad mouthing each other in their political circles. Eventually, their feuding escalated into a duel to the death.
Reaction: I knew that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton (remember that commercial?), but I didn’t know any of the circumstances surrounding Hamilton’s death. I was excited to find this book to learn what happened between those two men.
Fradin’s text is very factual. He doesn’t embellish the story with funny anecdotes or any other filler. He provides a brief overview of the history of the two men, how their feud got started and what led up to the duel. The tone of the duel and its aftermath is somber and sad. Fradin really lets Day’s art speak to the consequences of the ill-advised duel.
The art is really lovely. Day’s illustrations here are much more serious and the colors darker than the funny, lively illustrations he used in Worst of Friends, but they fit with Fradin’s no frills text. He provides a lot of detail of the two men and their surroundings, and his backgrounds in the duel scenes are beautiful. The colors of the rising sun are glorious behind the two men facing off for their fight, and his image of Hamilton’s men carrying him into their boat is a little heartbreaking.
I would use this book as part of a 5th grade history unit. I don’t think I ever learned about this duel in school, and I know it would have been something I found interesting. I think it would be interesting for students to compare Duel! to Worst of Friends and continue the discussion about how the men of the Revolutionary War interacted with each other.
Media Used: Ink with watercolors and gouache.
Author’s Website: None