Title: Powder KegPowder Keg
Author: Donald E. Cooke
Illustrator: Harve Stein
Pages: 179
Reading Level: 8-12
Star Rating: ★★★★★

Appended to this title was the mysterious subtitle A Story of the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot’. *shivers with excitement*

The Story.

When his bedroom was rattled by the reverberation of guns in the harbor, Tom Rawlins wasn’t really concerned – after all, that’s how ships carrying important passengers are always welcomed! But Tom quickly learns that the booming cannons were no show – Patriot soldiers have thrown up earthworks on Breed’s Hill, just next to Bunker Hill, and the British ships out in the harbor are sending out a warning!

When Tom hears that the militia on Breed’s Hill are from Cambridge, where his brother Bruce has been at college, he begins to worry. He feels he must dash over and make sure Bruce hasn’t become involved in the war!

In a twist of events, Tom himself winds up on the hill with Bruce, and both become exiles from British-controlled Boston. Tom wants to return back home to reassure his parents that both their sons are alive, but before that can be arranged, Tom is selected for another mission.

The Continental army is desperately low on powder. News has come that the British are keeping powder on the isle of Bermuda which the natives would willingly deliver up in exchange for provisions. And that’s how Tom lands on a ship heading for foreign parts on a secret mission…


Powder Keg is a cross between historical and speculative fiction. It is historical because the events really and truly did happen – a patriot captain did risk his neck by smuggling away the Bermudan powder, and that really did save the patriot cause. But no one knows who actually did it – only that his code name was “Mr. Harris”.

In Powder Keg, Donald Cooke creates the characters whom he believes could easily have been involved in the Bermuda gunpowder plot – a tough old sea captain named Barnaby, a handful of scrapping sailors, and of course Tom Rawlins. He has this group sail under cover of darkness into the Bermuda harbor, and, in maneuvers worthy of the Swamp Fox, penetrate the home of the British representative there, steal the keys to the powder room, and make off with the powder. It’s bloody good fun!

Not that it’s actually bloody. There’s a tiny bit of fighting, but nothing intense. I was using the word bloody there in the British sense, not a descriptive one. ; )

But seriously, it’s a perfect patriotic-cause meets maritime-adventure sort of story. I really enjoyed it.

Tom and Bruce are both patriots, but their parents are Tories. This creates a temporary estrangement which is resolved in the end when their parents become patriots.

God’s name is used twice as an exclamation in serious circumstances.

Conclusion. Get it. Your kids will love it! (Also read Patriots’ Gold.)

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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