The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy by Kitty Griffin, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
The story of Betsy Dowdy has been part of an oral tradition for over 200 years. While she may not have existed, this is a wonderful American story of bravery and determination. Betsy was 16 years old in 1775 when the news came of the redcoats marching to Great Bridge to take ponies and supplies. There was no hope that anyone could make it to General Skinner’s militia fifty miles away in time to bring aid. But Betsy could not help in other ways. She couldn’t fight. But she could ride. So despite the danger and the dark, she set off riding her trusty pony, Bess. The ride was not easy. They had to swim across a channel in December, and that was the start of the ride. Betsy had to endure packs of dogs, ice cold temperature, and falling from Bess several times. But in the end, she got to the general in time. The day was saved thanks to one brave girl and her tireless pony.
Betsy Dowdy is a girl version of Paul Revere. Griffin writes with great historical details, that bring the time period to life. But it is Betsy herself who is the focus of this book. Wonderfully, Betsy’s fear is allowed to show and her desperation and fatigue. She is a very human heroine and because of that she is all the more impressive.
Priceman’s illustrations are filled with deep colors from the purple of the frightening forest to the deep blue of the river. Done in gouache and ink, the illustrations are wonderfully dramatic, conveying motion forward in a variety of ways. One of my favorite images is Betsy riding into the dawn of the new day, the colors changing as she moves through the setting. One feels the sudden surge of hope that light brought.
A powerful story of girl power that should be used in American Revolution units with elementary children. Girls will enjoy a story that includes more action than sewing or rolling bandages. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.