Secret Smithsonian Adventures: It’s Treason, by George!

It's Treason, By George!

The Secret Smithsonian Adventures line (aimed at 8-to-12-year-olds) continues this October with its third entry. After tackling the history of invention with the Wright Brothers and natural history with a world where dinosaurs survived, this latest installment looks at American political history. It’s Treason, by George! is particularly timely (and scary) as the kids return from their previous adventure to find that the country is now a monarchy and some of their parents are under house arrest for sedition for having unpopular opinions.

Faceless guards in riot gear tell the kids they have to get home before curfew, the first sign that something is very wrong. It’s a classic idea, one seen before, but it sets up feelings of fear and dread quickly and effectively. Meanwhile, their time bands give them a new power, useful in a fascist state: invisibility.

The kids visit the National Museum of American History, where the Hall of American Monarchs (instead of Presidents) show them what went wrong. Their computer guide gives them the most important lesson:

It's Treason, By George!

In a way, history has always been changing, because the way we look at it has never stayed the same. We emphasize some things, forget other things, then remember, reassess…

That’s part of getting to the meat of who’s behind all these changes in history. Currently, he’s impersonating George Washington and refusing to give up the Presidency.

Other key figures include Alexander Hamilton and Oney Judge, a slave in Washington’s household who escaped to freedom. Her presence makes the plot run more smoothly, but it also is another indicator of how relative history can be in context. These men, revolutionary leaders who fought to gain their freedom, enslaved others. Events in this graphic novel will help kids empathize with the struggles involved in both cases and understand how democracy is something to keep fighting for.

The creative team from the previous two books returns for this story, writers Steve Hockensmith and Chris Kientz and artist Lee Nielsen. More good quotes from this issue:

“My mom and dad always said freedom wasn’t free. It was something you had to earn.”

“Is this the America you want? A government where no home is safe from search? Where our own government spies on us? A government run by a lying buffoon?”

At this point, I found myself curious if any changes are going to be made before the eventual publication, since I was reading a galley. (I appreciated the pointed comments, but I’m not sure the editors will.) It’s Treason, by George! is an exciting read and a great conversation-starter in talking about what makes America great: the peaceful transfer of power and a history of leaders who value more than their own interests. (The publisher provided an advance review copy.)

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