New Editions of Some of Our Favorite Novels

Posted on: 01/13/2020 Back to all blog posts

At Royal Fireworks Press, we have a wide selection of historical novels that teach children and teens, not just about history, but about character and integrity and the challenges of real-life conflicts and struggles. Many of those novels are time-tested because they have been around for several years. Recently we have reissued new editions of a few of them, and to start the new year (and the new decade) off with a flourish, we have selected two of our most beloved for a freshening up.

The novels The Key to Honor and The Price of Command, both by Ron Wanttaja, are everything we love about a good book. They are filled with adventure and colorful characters, with suspense and plot twists, with memorable action scenes. But they are so much more than that. They are imbued with an exploration of inner conflict, of the struggle to discern the difference between right and wrong (which is not always obvious), of the challenges of doing what needs to be done, even when it’s scary and hard. And the novels are historically accurate (as much as fiction can be), allowing children to learn what really happened in some of the sea battles that took place during the War of 1812.

The stories follow twelve-year-old Nate Lawton, who has been given a commission as an officer aboard a Navy ship in the Boston Harbor, and later on a warship in Lake Erie, to help fight the British in the war. Nate hides a guilty secret that tears at him, but he pushes it down and does his best to lead his men, who are not pleased at having to follow a mere boy. How can he earn their respect? What does leadership really mean? It’s obviously not just about ordering men around because that doesn’t seem to work well, nor does it make them want to follow him. Nate wants to lead with honor. He wants to become a valuable part of the organization that is working toward defeating the British. He has superior officers all around him, but not all of them are good role models, and Nate struggles to discover how to be honorable in his conduct—an especially important goal considering his guilty past.

One great benefit of these novels is that they provide young people with an early insight into organizations, how they function, and what constitutes productive and unproductive behavior. At one level, they offer lessons of leadership; on a more complex level, they afford insight into organizational structure and management. These are lessons that no one teaches formally but that are a valuable framework for kids to have as they grow up and navigate through educational and work environments.

The new editions of The Key to Honor and The Price of Command are freshly edited and formatted, but they still contain a wealth of information for interested youngsters about the War of 1812, wooden sailing ships, early naval protocols, and more. Pages of diagrams of ships and of battles and a glossary of key terms will immerse children in Nate’s world—a world that Nate must find his place in, and in doing so learn the true meaning of honor and integrity.

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