By Joy Pullmann
Photo credit: Joy Pullman/The Federalist
Everyone was reading the Heroes of Liberty books in my home for Thanksgiving, from the early elementary kids to their twenty-something aunts and uncles to their grandpa.
After I opened a box containing the children’s history series Heroes of Liberty and set the books on the playroom table, I hardly saw five of my six kids for the next three days. (My sixth is 2 years old and never sits still.) They were all gobbling down the beautifully illustrated biographies of notables such as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Harriet Tubman, and Alexander Hamilton, pitched at ages 7 to 12 — exactly the ages of my oldest four.
Even though my children are notorious readers because we don’t allow them screen time except for Monday movie night, this was still a slightly startling development. Usually, I have to carefully source books for my kids by interest and age. Even low-screen kids like mine turn up their noses at certain books, according to each one’s persnicketies. This series, however, captured the attention of every one of my readers. And not just them.
When several dozen people filled my home for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the phenomenon repeated among all ages. Everyone was reading the Heroes of Liberty books, from the early elementary kids to their twenty-something aunts and uncles to their grandpa. They sat in the living room passing the volumes around like a funny cat video. Except these held their attention far longer and gave them far more meaningful scope for thought.
Kid-Attractive and Sturdy
The series consists of well-bound, engaging, inspiring, and accurate biographies with child-attractive illustrations. They have a high-quality look and feel. As a mom of kids who read books to bits, I know that the strong hardcover binding will help these books last, hopefully all the way to my grandkids.
I prefer a slightly more elegant and detailed illustration style, but I’m unusual in my strong taste for the traditional. It makes sense for the illustrations in these books to meet at the intersection of quality comic book and animation. It is certainly several steps up in quality from the illustrations I like least in children’s books: those that imitate the artistic efforts of preschoolers, who have the excuse of undeveloped fine motor skills.
The poor bindings and illustrations of many good older books I regularly introduce to my kids often repel them before they even open the cover. This series cleverly attracts children even if its pictures don’t rise to Sistine Chapel-level artistic standards. If I had to choose between the two artistic possibilities, I’d make the same choice as the series editors, because there’s no point in putting out a book people don’t read.
Extremely High Production Quality
Also delightfully surprising was the amount of text these books contained, and how interesting the fact-driven storytelling was. I’ve read thousands of picture books with my children and hundreds of children’s books about American history. This series is competitive with the best I’m aware of, if not the best of their own category. It is delightful to see something at this level of quality from a smaller and conservative-marketed publisher, due to the cliché of religious and conservative materials often not being quality-competitive with big corporate.
There are indeed good history books for kids (try the Cornerstones of Freedom series; a few are politicized but most are solid), but I don’t know of any this good that provide a toe-for-toe counterpart to the heavily politicized junk biographies filling library shelves in the children’s history section. That is why I also set aside my reservations about writing biographies of living people such as Amy Coney Barrett — those already exist of leftist counterparts like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so they ought also to exist of exemplary Americans such as Barrett. These biographies should truly be on every school library’s shelves.
If your public library doesn’t already have these and allows patrons to request titles as mine does, request that your local library purchase this set. Also, or alternatively, buy your own if you’re able — you won’t regret this investment in your family’s self-education. Since this series is sadly less likely to land on those shelves due to the library and teaching profession’s deep political bias, parents, grandparents, and others have an obligation to provide children good histories when our corrupted public institutions will not.
Honest about American History
Like me, the Heroes of Liberty editors are clearly not interested in replacing leftist propaganda in children’s history with conservative propaganda. The series does no propagandizing, as I (perhaps foolishly) worried given its affiliation with conservative personalities. The books instead simply state true and compelling facts in an easy-to-follow story form and let the truth speak for itself.
Here’s an example from the Harriet Tubman biography in the series: “…blacks were not only free in Philadelphia,” where Tubman escaped from slavery. “They were also active in public and religious life. The city was home to the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of the Abolition of Slavery, the oldest anti-slavery society in the country. Its first president was Benjamin Franklin.”
As mentioned, these are all simple and simply stated facts. Yet in themselves they undercut several false narratives about race and American history, including that black Americans lack agency, and that the American founders were wholesale slavers and the Constitution they produced a “pro-slavery document.”
It’s utterly refreshing. These books destroy false historical narratives without displaying bitterness or bias and without fulfilling the lies and smears always launched against such efforts, such as claims that conservatives “don’t want to talk about slavery or America’s sins.” When appropriate, these books absolutely do so. The Tubman biography, for example, is not at all shy about illustrating the horrors of slavery in age-appropriate detail. In fact, it does an exemplary job of educating about American chattel slavery.
Here’s another example of that from the Hamilton biography: “Then there were also the slave markets where human beings were bought and sold, like cattle, in plain sight. Young Alexander saw it all. And he never forgot what he saw. It all shaped who he would become.” On the same page as this text is an illustration of a slave auction.
Although the books do not shy away from tragedy in their subjects, both personal and national, they also are deeply hopeful because they show how these great Americans worked to rise above the inevitable tragedies of life. This is why biography is known as an inspirational genre, even when it necessarily treats of difficult subjects. At its best, biography reveals human nature and ideally human greatness amid life’s suffering and sometimes crippling constraints. Very little better reading material can be made available to all, but especially children, who like all of us need such examples to look toward as they grow.
Definitely Worth Buying
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of this series until I looked at them. Now I and my children are dedicated fans. My 7-year-old, whom I required to tell me what he had learned in exchange for giving him the next book in the set, summed up with this: “If you stop reading anywhere, it’s a cliffhanger.”
It’s refreshing as a parent to be able to trust the writers and publishers of a book so I don’t have to pre-read, scrutinize, and pre-emptively guard my children’s minds from those who seek to prey upon them with popular lies. It’s refreshing to learn facts about my beloved country and its wonderful people that celebrate the human spirit and especially its peculiar American expressions. It’s refreshing to let my guard down and just enjoy reading about American history with my children from a trustworthy source that isn’t trying to push us in any direction politically, but just to tell true human stories of our ancestors and their dreams, failures, and achievements.
The review copies the Heroes of Liberty team sent me will be donated to a K-12 school library to encourage, educate, and inspire as many children as possible. We will be buying the forthcoming books as they arrive and donating those, too — after we’ve all gobbled them up in our living room. For Christmas, birthdays, and beyond, the Heroes of Liberty team is offering Federalist readers an amazing 20 percent off with the special code FED22.
Quite frankly, I would go with the 12 books for $129 or all 14 currently published for $159 Christmas specials — that’s a ridiculous steal for brand-new hardbacks, and the series is worth it. It’d be a wonderful and enduring present for a special child or family in your life. The two-year book-of-the-month subscription offers a similar value with the bonus of your recipient getting to look forward to personalized mail each month — something my kids absolutely adore.
Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist, a happy wife, and the mother of six children. Here’s her printable household organizer for faith-centered holidays. Sign up here to get early access to her next ebook, “101 Strategies For Living Well Amid Inflation.” Her bestselling ebook is “Classic Books for Young Children.” Mrs. Pullmann identifies as native American and gender natural. She is the author of several books, including “The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids,” from Encounter Books. Joy is also a grateful graduate of the Hillsdale College honors and journalism programs.