|Sophia's War: a Tale of the Revolution
In 1776, the War of Independence comes to New York City, and to twelve-year-old Sophia Calderwood’s family. William, her older soldier brother, has been missing since the defeat of George Washington’s Army at the Battle of Brooklyn.
When the British occupy the city, Lieutenant John André of the English Army, is boarded at the Calderwood home. He and Sophia develop a flirtatious friendship, which is tested when the girl discovers that William is being held in The Sugarhouse, a notorious British prison. She hopes André can help. When he chooses not to, Sophia struggles to save her brother herself.
Three years later, Sophia becomes a spy in the headquarters of the British Army. There she finds André, now a Major, working to enable a highly placed American General become a traitor, a treason that will endanger the whole American war effort. Deciding to stop the treason—and motivated by personal revenge—Sophia becomes desperate. However, as Sophia learns, desperation’s other name is deception. Indeed, the desperate characters in this thrilling tale of spies and counter-spies, act out many acts of deception, not least by Sophia herself.
Based on true tales of the Revolution, carefully researched, this story will shock and enthrall even those who think they know what happened during the American Revolution. Sophia's War is Avi at his best, a haunting historical thriller.
Awards and Honors
ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, 2013
Booklist (starred review):
“In 1776, 12-year-old Sophia and her parents live in British-occupied New York City. When John André, a charming English officer, is quartered in their home, Sophia idealizes him. But after he refuses to help her brother, a captured American soldier who later dies on a squalid prison ship, her opinion changes.
"Sophia becomes a spy in 1780 and discovers André’s plot to capture West Point with the help of the traitorous American general Benedict Arnold. Unable to pass along the information through the usual channels, she travels northward on her own, hoping to alert the American forces to Arnold’s treachery. The book’s riveting opening scene, in which Sophie watches as Nathan Hale is hanged as a spy, foreshadows the danger she knowingly accepts by engaging in espionage. Few historical novels are as closely shaped by actual events as this one during the last 100 pages. Working within the bounds of credibility, Avi manages to keep the fictional narrator on the scene for a good deal of the action and uses real moments to bring the imagined story to its dramatic heights. A glossary of eighteenth-century terms and an author’s note are appended. Pair this intriguing historical novel with Sheinkin’s The Notorious Benedict Arnold (2010)." —Carolyn Phelan
Publishers Weekly (starred review):
Newbery Medalist Avi (Crispin: The Cross of Lead) channels the mood, language, and danger of the Revolutionary War in this seamless blend of history and fiction, set in British-occupied New York City. Twelve-year-old Sophia Calderwood idolizes her older brother, William, a fervent Patriot soldier who has gone missing after the Battle of Brooklyn. In the first half of the book, Sophia’s desperate search for William leads her to several deplorable prisons where rebels are being held. The second half takes place when Sophia, now 15, becomes a spy who uncovers the truth about Benedict Arnold. The book is chockful of fascinating historical details, including the conditions for those stranded in New York and the failed meetings between Arnold and John André, his (real-life) British contact. Avi doesn’t sugarcoat the brutal realities of war as Sophia races to find help intercepting John André, who was also a boarder in her home years earlier and her first crush, in this rich, nail-biting thriller. A glossary of period terms and an author’s note are included.
School Library Journal (starred review):
Sophia Calderwood, 12, and her parents live in British-occupied Manhattan, 1776; her brother William has joined the rebel army. Masquerading as Tories, the Calderwoods are able to stay in their home, but are forced to house British officers. Their first boarder is handsome Lieutenant John André. He captivates Sophia, despite her hatred for the enemy and her anger when he refuses to aid her beloved brother, now in British hands. William dies amid the horrifying conditions of a prison ship and Sophia vows vengeance. Three years later, she joins the Culper spy ring and is placed as a maid in General Henry Clinton’s headquarters. André, now a Major, is also stationed there, but fails to recognize her due to the years that have passed. Sophia’s subterfuge uncovers his plot with Benedict Arnold to surrender West Point to the British. Her enduring affection for André sets up the novel’s central conflict: to save her country, Sophia must betray a man she cares for, knowing her deceit will cause his death. Sophia’s War is outstanding historical fiction, bringing to dramatic life the human story behind extraordinary events. The climax is a seamless incorporation of hard fact with thrilling espionage as Avi juxtaposes scenes of André and Arnold’s attempt to meet against Sophia’s efforts to stop them. Rich in period detail, the atmospheric prose vividly re-creates old New York and allows readers to experience Sophia’s conflicting emotions. A glossary clarifies 18th-century terms; in an author’s note, Avi reflects on historical fiction . — M. Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY