Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch is a fantastic new non-fiction picture book that is sure to appeal to kids.
As always with the best narrative non-fiction, I am impressed by the author's ability to take an aspect of history or science and make it palatable and comprehensible for young listeners. As someone who has never enjoyed reading non-fiction, I feel comfortable assuming that I am as difficult to engage as your average eight-year-old. And I am not ashamed to admit that the word "gingerbread" in the title of Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is exactly what made me pick it up. Happily, Rockliff does a fine job telling the story of Christopher Ludwick and his heroic acts of patriotism. And, as often happens when I read a book of this nature, I find myself even more deeply affected by the Author's Note than the book itself, I guess because I'm an adult.
Known only as "the baker" throughout Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution, the story of Christopher Ludwick begins in Philadelphia where he is a cheerful baker with an "honest face" and a "booming laugh." Kirsch's magnificent illustrations perfectly bring to life this wonderful, generous man and his story who can be heard bellowing, "No empty bellies here! Not in my America!" as he hands out broken pieces of gingerbread to hungry children.
When the baker learns that his new country is going to war, he heads off to join General Washington even though he is old and fat. He was once a soldier in Germany, where he was born. Soon the baker is feeding the soldiers and the enemy, converting the armies hired by the King of England with his cry of, "No empty bellies here. Not in my America!"
The Author's Notes for Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution reveals so much more about the baker, German emigrant Christopher Ludwick. Returning home after the war, Ludwick was blind in one eye (a barrel of flour had fallen on his head during the war) and almost penniless, his house having been ransacked by the British armies. However, he rebuilt his bakery and continued to feed the city and the poor and hungry. Ludwick even stayed in Philadelphia in 1798 during the yellow fever outbreak, feeding the sick. Most moving of all, Ludwick paid for the education of at least fifty children and left his money to pay for the free schooling of poor children. Today, some 200 years later, the Christopher Ludwick Foundation gives about $200,000 a year to programs that help educate needy children in Philadelphia.
Not only is Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution a superb addition to the non-fiction shelves, but it is a magnificent example of character and bravery.
Source: Review Copy