Monday, July 1, 2019

Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton by Margaret McNamara & Illus by Esmé Shapiro

It is always interesting to me when society has a renewed interest in someone long dead. Alexander Hamilton hasn't done anything interesting in over 200 years and somehow, he is a person of very current interest and passion.

The power of a musical. 

This book is an interesting look at Alexander Hamilton's wife, an interesting and important player in the Revolutionary/Early Years Era of American history.

 You can see the sway of the musical in the fact that the actress that plays Eliza in the play has graced the book with an afterward; giving her blessing.  

The book itself is written like a letter from an older Elizabeth to her soon to be born great-grandchild. 

While no such letter exists, it is an interesting format to convey a personal touch and a wealth of information. 

Eliza goes all the way back to her birth, sharing details of her parent's life and home north of Albany. 

Eliza like all good heroines was a bit unconventional, loving the outdoors and not being afraid of anything. Unlike her visiting friends who were a little hesitant about the wildness of newly settled area. 

Eliza is true to the era, depicting her family's slaves and a destroying fire that moved through during her childhood. 

Do you remember the discussion a year or two ago about how slaves were depicted in children's books? Sophie Blackall's illustrations in A Fine Dessert and Vanessa Brantley-Newton's illustrations in A Birthday Cake for George Washington were widely criticized because they depicted the slaves as smiling or enjoying their enslavement. Clearly Shapiro learned from that conversation. 

The courtship of the young, passionate, and orphaned Alexander and the well-connected Elizabeth

Their home filled with light, love, and children

The day of Alexander's death

After Alexander's death, Elizabeth devoted herself to making the world more gentle and kind to those destitute and needy. 

Along with several others, Eliza was involved in establishing the Orphan Asylum Society which is still operating under the name of Graham Windham. 

This is a children's book, so it doesn't include all the details about the Alexander's life, including Alexander's affair with Maria Reynolds becoming public, their first son being killed in a duel only two years before Alexander was killed in his own duel, and her oldest daughter who had a mental breakdown after her brother's death and was there after described as being in "an eternal childhood" for the rest of her life. 

But overall, this book has a wealth of knowledge about an interesting woman involved in the founding of America. 

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