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Sophia’s War

A Tale of the Revolution

What’s this book about?

In 1776, the War of Inde­pen­dence comes to New York City, and to twelve-year-old Sophia Calderwood’s fam­i­ly. William, her old­er sol­dier broth­er, has been miss­ing since the defeat of George Washington’s Army at the Bat­tle of Brooklyn. 

When the British occu­py the city, Lieu­tenant John André of the Eng­lish Army, is board­ed at the Calder­wood home. He and Sophia devel­op a flir­ta­tious friend­ship, which is test­ed when the girl dis­cov­ers that William is being held in The Sug­ar­house, a noto­ri­ous British prison. She hopes André can help. When he choos­es not to, Sophia strug­gles to save her broth­er herself.

Three years lat­er, Sophia becomes a spy in the head­quar­ters of the British Army. There she finds André, now a Major, work­ing to enable a high­ly placed Amer­i­can Gen­er­al become a trai­tor, a trea­son that will endan­ger the whole Amer­i­can war effort.  Decid­ing to stop the treason—and moti­vat­ed by per­son­al revenge—Sophia becomes des­per­ate. How­ev­er, as Sophia learns, desperation’s oth­er name is decep­tion. Indeed, the des­per­ate char­ac­ters in this thrilling tale of spies and counter-spies, act out many acts of decep­tion, not least by Sophia herself. 

Based on true tales of the Rev­o­lu­tion, care­ful­ly researched, this sto­ry will shock and enthrall even those who think they know what hap­pened dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. Sophi­a’s War is Avi at his best, a haunt­ing his­tor­i­cal thriller.


Story Behind the Story

  1. I was raised in Brook­lyn Heights, the site of the biggest bat­tle of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. It was that bat­tle, which brought the Eng­lish to Man­hat­tan, which they occu­pied for the rest of the war.
  2. The place where I lived was also not far from the Brook­lyn bay where the British had pris­on­er ships. Fifty thou­sand Amer­i­cans died on those ships. The beach was lit­tered with human bones.

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Awards and Recognition

  • ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, 2013
  • Book­list Edi­tors’ Choice
  • CBC Best Chil­dren’s Books of the Year
  • Char­lie May Simon Chil­dren’s Book Award Nom­i­nee (AR)
  • Gar­den State Chil­dren’s Book Award Nom­i­nee (NJ)
  • Mass­a­chu­setts Chil­dren’s Book Award Mas­ter List
  • North Car­oli­na Chil­dren’s Book Award Nominee


“In 1776, 12-year-old Sophia and her par­ents live in British-occu­pied New York City. When John André, a charm­ing Eng­lish offi­cer, is quar­tered in their home, Sophia ide­al­izes him. But after he refus­es to help her broth­er, a cap­tured Amer­i­can sol­dier who lat­er dies on a squalid prison ship, her opin­ion changes.

“Sophia becomes a spy in 1780 and dis­cov­ers André’s plot to cap­ture West Point with the help of the trai­tor­ous Amer­i­can gen­er­al Bene­dict Arnold. Unable to pass along the infor­ma­tion through the usu­al chan­nels, she trav­els north­ward on her own, hop­ing to alert the Amer­i­can forces to Arnold’s treach­ery. The book’s riv­et­ing open­ing scene, in which Sophie watch­es as Nathan Hale is hanged as a spy, fore­shad­ows the dan­ger she know­ing­ly accepts by engag­ing in espi­onage. Few his­tor­i­cal nov­els are as close­ly shaped by actu­al events as this one dur­ing the last 100 pages. Work­ing with­in the bounds of cred­i­bil­i­ty, Avi man­ages to keep the fic­tion­al nar­ra­tor on the scene for a good deal of the action and uses real moments to bring the imag­ined sto­ry to its dra­mat­ic heights. A glos­sary of eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry terms and an author’s note are append­ed. Pair this intrigu­ing his­tor­i­cal nov­el with Sheinkin’s  The Noto­ri­ous Bene­dict Arnold (2010).” (Car­olyn Phe­lan, Book­list, starred review)

“New­bery Medal­ist Avi (Crispin: The Cross of Lead) chan­nels the mood, lan­guage, and dan­ger of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War in this seam­less blend of his­to­ry and fic­tion, set in British-occu­pied New York City. Twelve-year-old Sophia Calder­wood idol­izes her old­er broth­er, William, a fer­vent Patri­ot sol­dier who has gone miss­ing after the Bat­tle of Brook­lyn. In the first half of the book, Sophia’s des­per­ate search for William leads her to sev­er­al deplorable pris­ons where rebels are being held. The sec­ond half takes place when Sophia, now 15, becomes a spy who uncov­ers the truth about Bene­dict Arnold. The book is chock­ful of fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal details, includ­ing the con­di­tions for those strand­ed in New York and the failed meet­ings between Arnold and John André, his (real-life) British con­tact. Avi doesn’t sug­ar­coat the bru­tal real­i­ties of war as Sophia races to find help inter­cept­ing John André, who was also a board­er in her home years ear­li­er and her first crush, in this rich, nail-bit­ing thriller. A glos­sary of peri­od terms and an author’s note are includ­ed.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review)

“Sophia Calder­wood, 12, and her par­ents live in British-occu­pied Man­hat­tan, 1776; her broth­er William has joined the rebel army. Mas­querad­ing as Tories, the Calder­woods are able to stay in their home, but are forced to house British offi­cers. Their first board­er is hand­some Lieu­tenant John André. He cap­ti­vates Sophia, despite her hatred for the ene­my and her anger when he refus­es to aid her beloved broth­er, now in British hands. William dies amid the hor­ri­fy­ing con­di­tions of a prison ship and Sophia vows vengeance. Three years lat­er, she joins the Culper spy ring and is placed as a maid in Gen­er­al Hen­ry Clinton’s head­quar­ters. André, now a Major, is also sta­tioned there, but fails to rec­og­nize her due to the years that have passed. Sophia’s sub­terfuge uncov­ers his plot with Bene­dict Arnold to sur­ren­der West Point to the British. Her endur­ing affec­tion for André sets up the novel’s cen­tral con­flict: to save her coun­try, Sophia must betray a man she cares for, know­ing her deceit will cause his death. Sophia’s War is out­stand­ing his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, bring­ing to dra­mat­ic life the human sto­ry behind extra­or­di­nary events. The cli­max is a seam­less incor­po­ra­tion of hard fact with thrilling espi­onage as Avi jux­ta­pos­es scenes of André and Arnold’s attempt to meet against Sophia’s efforts to stop them. Rich in peri­od detail, the atmos­pher­ic prose vivid­ly re-cre­ates old New York and allows read­ers to expe­ri­ence Sophia’s con­flict­ing emo­tions. A glos­sary clar­i­fies 18th-cen­tu­ry terms; in an author’s note, Avi reflects on his­tor­i­cal fic­tion . (M. Kozikows­ki, Sachem Pub­lic Library, Hol­brook, NY, School Library Jour­nal, starred review)

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