Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore
Baltimore Post-Examiner is proud to showcase an excerpt from Jonathon Scott Fuqua’s latest children’s book – Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore. Fuqua, a Baltimore native, is the author of The Reappearance of Sam Webber and has penned three highly acclaimed literary novels and the award-winning graphic novel, In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe. You can purchase Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore at Amazon.
To learn more Jonathon Scott Fuqua, please check out his website.
You think history is boring?
Baltimore kid Daniel does–until a chance encounter with a magical talking raven named Calvert sends him flying back to 1814, where he finds his home city under siege by a British army on the verge of defeating the United States of America in the War of 1812.
Amidst the fire of muskets, the thunder of cannons, and the dark approach of the British armada, Daniel discovers just what it took for a young nation to endure the Battle of Baltimore. He witnesses firsthand the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
”History,”; Calvert tells Daniel, ”is watery.” And maybe the star-spangled banner won’t survive this time.
The beautifully illustrated pages of Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore, the first book of theFlying Through History series, are as close as you can get to the Battle of Baltimore without going back in time yourself. Author and illustrator J. Scott Fuqua takes you on a harrowing journey through a history of near misses, narrow escapes, and brave soldiers with no idea what tomorrow would bring.
When you’re flying through history, history is never boring.
Daniel searched up through the bright Baltimore sky, where a raven curled in front of the sun. He lowered his gaze to the wrinkled history paper in his hand and reread the first paragraph:
When you look back at the War of 1812, you wondor a lot of things. You wondor why somebuddy didn’t invent the camera yet so that you could see real pictures of everyone instead of paintings. And, you think everything seems a little boaring. Stories about back then put me asleep in about five seconds.
So, on account of being scared of going asleep, I couldn’t not even open a book.
If I could, I couldn’t of written this essay. That’s why I had to make so many things up. It’s true.
At the top of the page, his teacher had written in cursive letters,“Terrible!”
Daniel worried that his mom and dad would be furious when they saw the paper. They might even take away TV or the computer for a whole entire week, which would be like being starved for fun.
Above Daniel, the raven cawed, extra loud. Then, like a well-made paper airplane, it circled downward and skittered onto the bench beside him.
Daniel looked at it. “Hey,” he said. “You’re a friendly bird, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” it said.
Daniel stumbled backwards like he was pushed. He scratched an itchy nostril. “Ah, you didn’t just talk . . . did you?”
Daniel leaned toward the bird, eyeballing him suspiciously. “But . . .birds can’t talk.”
“How about parrots? You remember those, Einstein?”
“Oh,” Daniel mumbled. “Well . . . you’re not a parrot, are you?”
“I’m a raven.”
“A raven? Like the football team?”
The bird cleared his throat. “Like the bird. Name’s Calvert.”
“You’ve sorta been following me since school. I’ve seen you.” “That’s not a crime, is it?”
Daniel considered. “I . . . I don’t think. Not for a bird.” “Good. Wouldn’t want to commit another one of those.”
Daniel stepped closer. He whispered, “Another? Are you a criminal?” “Not me. It’s that sorry history paper that’s criminal. Ouch.”
Self-conscious, Daniel hid the paper behind his back. “It’s a boring subject.”
The raven jumped from the seat to the back of the bench. “Ya really think it’s boring?”
Daniel didn’t know how to answer.
“Tell me something. Do ya think life and death is boring?”
Daniel put a finger to his chin. “No.”
“Are bombs and rockets a yawner?”
“Can I try to change your mind about the war?”
“Some, yeah,” Daniel said.
Calvert leaped up like someone had poked his tail feathers. “This could take a while, but ya won’t be late for dinner. I promise.”
“What could take a while?”
“Me changing your mind. We gotta go on a trip.”
“I’m not allowed to go places with strangers.”
“Daniel, please, I’m not a stranger. I’m a bird.”
Daniel thought for a minute. “It’s true. My parents never said anything about you guys.”
“That’s what I thought. Touch my wing. Just for a second.”
Nervous, Daniel put a pinky forward and pressed it on a dark, slick feather.
Suddenly, a gust of wind swept his hair back. His stomach knotted. He looked down and realized he wasn’t on the sidewalk anymore.
Somehow, he was sitting atop Calvert as the raven whisked him above an old-fashioned sailing ship.
Calvert adjusted his wings and dropped down amidst a pack of similar ships, all of them bristling with cannons and men.
Daniel shouted, “How . . . how is this happening?!”
“Me being here?!”
“I brought you.”
Calvert looked over his shoulder at Daniel. “How do ya ride a bike,
dude? I don’t know how I did it.”
Daniel shouted, over the wind whistling in his ears, “Have we gone back in time?!”
“Did you make yourself gigantic? Is that how I can fit on your back?”
“Of course not. I can’t do that. I made you small.”
Daniel’s head whirled like he was getting spun in tight circles.
“O-oh,” he stammered.
Calvert veered gently, gained altitude, and glided toward a distant point of land, and before it, more tall ships. They rested at anchor, their sails pulled up. The bird said, “See those buildings and houses way, way over there?”
Daniel blinked. “Yeah.” “That’s Baltimore in 1814.” “That little town?”
“I ain’t lying. And it’s the third biggest city in all of America. Later this morning, British soldiers will attack the American army outside of Baltimore. They’re the same soldiers who charbroiled Washington, D.C., the White House, and the Capitol Building a month ago.”
Daniel hollered, “They didn’t char-cook the real White House, did they?!”
“President had to run away and hide, like a mouse from a cat.” “Is . . . is that weird?”
“It is to me, yeah.”
Calvert glided over the ships anchored by the coastline. “Over the next few days, Daniel, the United States might get beaten. It’s a sad situation.”
Daniel peered down at the ranks of soldiers on the shoreline below them. “I . . . I hope those are Americans,” he said nervously.
“They aren’t. They’re British Redcoats marching to capture Baltimore.”
Shocked, Daniel said, “But America won’t lose. Right?”
“Don’t know. History is watery. It goes where it wants. Just us being here could change everything. For instance, what if you and me distract someone from doing something they were supposed to do? We could change the way history happens, and America might lose the war.”
Find out what happens next: Purchase the book at Amazon
Jonathon Scott Fuqua is the author of The Reappearance of Sam Webber (ALA Alex Award, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editor’s Choice), DARBY (Book Sense Top 5, Mark Twain Award finalist) and Catie & Josephine (Washington Post Book of the Week). He has also written three highly acclaimed literary novels and the award-winning graphic novel, In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe. He has received three Maryland State Arts Council writing awards and teaches writing and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art.