Firebrand by Aaron Barnhart, review by Melissa Fox
Fifteen-year-old August Bondi and his family are Jews who are managing to fly under the radar in early 19th-century in Vienna, Austria, until the Vienna Uprising in 1848. When life suddenly became too dangerous for them, they flee to America where they hope to have a better life. After a harrowing journey, the family ends up in St. Louis, where August’s parents find work and a community. But August is still restless, still looking for a way to make his mark, so he heads out to the Kansas territory, where he discovers the intense fight between those who want Kansas to be a slave state and those who don’t.
It’s a cause that August can get behind: he fought on the side of the students in Vienna and he is more than willing to fight against slavery. So, he joins up with John Brown and his sons, fighting back against those who would have Kansas be a slave state. It’s a dangerous business, but one that August is willing to sacrifice for.
That is a recurring theme in August’s story, the idea that there are Things worth Dying For, and that there were people like August who were willing to do just that. Firebrand is a good story, capturing a little-known part of Kansas history, and perhaps making it more accessible to readers of all ages.