The American Revolution:
Experience the Battle for Independence
Nomad Press/ March, 2015
Illustrator: Tom Casteel


Please describe the book.

Early in the morning of April 19, 1775, a shot rang out on the commons in the small town of Lexington, Massachusetts. Who fired that shot remains a mystery of history. But this single action was a catalyst that sparked the American War for Independence. At the beginning of this war, Americans were outgunned, outspent and divided. The American Revolution: Experience the Battle for Independence relates the history of how these patriots defeated the powerful British army and formed the United States of America. The book is aimed at readers in grades 4-6. It incorporates primary sources and engaging projects and focuses on helping readers think like historians.

How did you connect with the publisher and/or editor?

I found Nomad Press in the publishers guide that we get with our SCBWI membership—The Book. After graduating from Hamline, I sent queries and writing clips to lots of write-for-hire and educational publishers. Nomad Press was one of those houses. Months passed and then the editor contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book on the American Revolution. I have a history degree and have taught the subject to high school students for years so it was a great fit.

Continental Army
soldier in tricorn hat


As the work progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about?

At first the editor wanted the book to be written for 1-3rd graders. However, I have a passion, some might say obsession, about teaching people the value of historical thinking, and I knew I couldn’t write an overly simple book that told the same old patriotic myths and included a pattern for how to make a tricorn hat. (Don’t get me wrong. I love tricorn hats. I own two tricorn hats.) So I talked to Jodi Baker, Hamline alum and writer/teacher extraordinaire, about when elementary students typically study the American Revolution. Based on Jodi’s feedback, I suggested to my editor that we aim the book at 5th graders. She agreed. After that the book came together very smoothly and systematically. Of course, I had to make every project that appears in the book. My diorama of a redoubt from the battle of Yorktown still sits on my desk. If you don’t know what a redoubt is, you should read my book.

When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?

I had a sixth month contract to complete a draft of the book. After that I had to make only minor revisions, so all told my writing process took about nine months.

What research was involved before and while writing the book?

General Washington’s HQ at Valley Forge

I did tons of research. Because I’ve been teaching American history for years, I already had a solid foundation, but I still read about fifty books and many articles. I trod the Freedom Trail in Boston and ran up and down the redoubts at Yorktown National Park in Virginia. I love research and like to experience history through the soles of my feet.

You have done work-for-hire writing before. What have you learned about the business of writing since your first contract?

The first book I wrote was a write-for-hire on Pope John Paul II. I wrote that book in five weeks. I was paid for the work, but ABDO decided not to publish it. I was never told why. That was disappointing, but the experience taught me how to write to spec, how to write quickly, and how to organize and document all my research. Those lessons have been invaluable.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I bought a walking treadmill with an attached desk last year. I walk at a turtle’s pace, but when I’m in the writing groove, I really put in some miles.
Do you remember the first book you loved?
The Famous Five adventure series by Enid Blyton. I tagged along on many adventures with those five kids and their dog, all from the safety of the triple-decker bunk bed I shared with my brother and sister.


Judy Dodge Cummings is a July 2012 graduate of the MFAC program. She lives in southern Wisconsin. To learn more about her writing please visit her website.