Today we’re kicking off the month of July’s “Hero” theme and celebrating Independence Day by featuring One Small Spark, a book about Christopher Seider, a boy who had an impact on the American Revolution.
When I first learned about the Christopher Seider incident and how pivotal it was to the events preceding the American Revolution, I was surprised that so little was known about him. After a lot of research, I discovered that no one had written a book about Christopher. I felt it was sad that this boy, who had such a profound impact on our country, was lost to history, so I decided it was time to tell his story.
About the book:
It is 1769, and Boston in in turmoil, but Benjamin Pembroke, the sheltered 11-year-old son of a wealthy merchant, is unaware of the growing unrest. His biggest concern is how to achieve his dream of one day joining the British army when his father expects him to become part of the family business.
An unexpected visit from one of his father’s business associates piques the curiosity of Benjamin and his twin sister Abigail after they eavesdrop on a cryptic conversation. Benjamin becomes even more intrigued after finding a mysterious scrap of paper referring to a shadowy group calling themselves the Sons of Liberty. Benjamin becomes determined to learn more about them., and, with the help of his more adventurous sister, sets out to learn who they are and what they’re up to.
During a visit to the home of Grizzell Apthorp, a wealthy widow, Benjamin spies a strange boy he finds surprisingly compelling. When the boy arrives at Benjamin’s home the next day, Benjamin learns that he is Christopher Seider, one of Mrs. Apthorp’s servants who shares Benjamin’s dream of becoming a military hero. This begins an unlikely friendship that will change Benjamin’s future, as well as the future of the country.
A series of escalating incidents involving raids by British soldiers, led by an unscrupulous Customs agent, makes Benjamin realize why so many Bostonians are yearning to be free from the jackboot of King George. Even Benjamin’s father, a former Loyalist, begins to waver in his support for England. When Benjamin discovers Christopher’s connection to the Sons of Liberty, he decides to join forces with the patriots in their fight for freedom.
As the political turbulence in Boston reaches a fever pitch, Benjamin participates in a demonstration outside the business of a merchant caught breaking the non-importation boycott. Things get out of hand, and shots are fired into the crowd of boys. The tragic aftermath is the catalyst that propels the people of Boston into revolution and cements Benjamin’s resolve to become a citizen soldier in the fight for freedom.
No matter how hard I tried, sleep wouldn’t come that night. I lay in bed and twisted from one side to the other. I plumped my pillow. But my eyes refused to stay closed. Now that the deed was done, I was wracked with doubt. A line from the Bible kept running through my mind. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” In my heart, I believed Mr. Lillie was wrong. But was I justified in judging him? Or was I no better than Ebenezer Richardson, informing on his neighbors? And what would Father say if he knew? I wondered if this was how Judas felt.
I finally gave up. Sitting up in bed, I stared out the window at the deserted street. The night was clear with a full moon that hung in the sky like a lantern. A mangy, stray dog nosed through a pile of trash and ran off, holding something in its mouth I couldn’t identify. The branches rustled in a tree as an owl took flight, soaring silently into the night sky. As the minutes ticked by, my eyes began to grow heavy. I was about to lie back down when I heard voices coming from the end of the street. As the voices grew louder, I pressed my face against the window so I could see further down the block. The voices belonged to five British soldiers. From their rowdy laughter, and the way they were stumbling, I could tell they’d had too much to drink.
They stopped right under my window. One of the soldiers shoved another, knocking him into the flowerbed that belonged to my neighbor, Mrs. Proctor, who was an elderly widow living with her calico cat. She was a kindly soul whose greatest joy was her beautiful garden. Mrs. Proctor spent hours pruning and weeding, coaxing lovely blossoms from the plants that blanketed the ground. In spring, she brought Mother fragrant hyacinths to adorn our mantel. In summer, there were roses, large as saucers, in shades of pink, yellow, and red. Fall brought bouquets of orange and gold chrysanthemums. In the winter, Mrs. Proctor covered the flowerbeds with straw and burlap to protect them from the cold.
The fallen soldier was too drunk to get back onto his feet. He lay in the flowerbed while his friends laughed and catcalled. When he didn’t respond, they tore the burlap covers off Mrs. Proctor’s plants and tossed them over their sleeping friend. Then they began ripping out the plants by their roots, arranging them around him as though he were lying in state. One soldier placed Mrs. Proctor’s favorite rosebush on his comrade’s chest. By the time they finished, the garden was destroyed. From the raucous way they were laughing as they staggered off, I could tell they thought this was the greatest joke in the world.
As I watched the soldiers vandalize Mrs. Proctor’s beloved garden, my guilt changed to fury. Were these the men who were sent to Boston to restore order? Where was their respect for the law? Did they have so little regard for the people they were sworn to protect? And had they no pride in being members of the King’s army? If only I could do something to make them pay for their senseless destruction.
About the author:
Jackie Minniti is a former teacher and journalist. She is the award-winning author of Project June Bug, Jacqueline, and One Small Spark. Several of her stories have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. She lives in Treasure Island, Florida, with her husband and two noisy macaws.
Author media links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jackie-Minniti
Jackie Minniti@Jackie Minniti