Castrovilla, Selene 1966–
Castrovilla, Selene 1966–
Born 1966; married (divorced); children: two sons. Education: New York University, B.A. (English); New School University, M.F.A.
Home—Long Island, NY.
New School Chapbook Award, for Evolution.
By the Sword: A Young Man Meets War, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2007.
Also author of Evolution (chapbook).
Selene Castrovilla lives close to the Revolutionary War site of the Battle of Long Island, which was fought in August of 1776, and it is this piece of history that inspired her children's book By the Sword: A Young Man Meets War. A fictional account that is based on the life and journal of Benjamin Tallmadge, Castrovilla's picture book for older readers draws on primary source documents and a great deal of research, and includes a time line and bibliography.
Inspired by his belief in the principals that inspired the American colonies' fight for independence, twenty-two-year-old Tallmadge was a minister's son and Yale College graduate. Teaching at a school in Connecticut, Tallmadge took his horse, Highlander, and traveled to New York, where he was appointed a lieutenant in the army of General George Washington. After training, he ultimately found himself confronting a large force of Hessian mercenaries on the battlefield. The Battle of Long Island, which was fought in Brooklyn Heights, ended with the British capture of New York City and the colonial army's retreat across the river under the cover of fog. For Tallmadge, the battle did not end here, however. Realizing that Highlander was still in Long Island, the lieutenant returned to Brooklyn in an attempt to rescue his faithful mount. In an endnote, Castrovilla explains that Tallmadge went on to become one of General Washington's most respected spies and officers.
In his Booklist review of By the Sword, Ian Chipman wrote that Castrolvilla successfully portrays "the tension and dread an unweathered soldier would feel in the face of battle without resorting to the grisly details" that might distress younger readers. Farnsworth's "impressionistic" oil paintings for the book were cited by Ann Welton, who noted in her School Library Journal review of By the Sword that Castrovilla spins a "plausible historical narrative that also adds a human face" to one of the many battles that forged a new nation. Referencing the author's copious research in her review for Childhood Education, Connie Green commented on the "authenticity" in By the Sword, adding that Farnsworth's somber paintings "reflect … the fear and stark reality" expressed in Castrovilla's story."
Discussing the timeliness of By the Sword relative to life in the United States over two centuries after the nation's founding, Castrovilla commented on her home page: "I write about people, and the emotions which
drive them to their actions. It could be 1776, it could be four o'clock this morning—we're all the same. History repeats itself because people repeat themselves."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 15, 2007, Ian Chipman, review of By the Sword: A Young Man Meets War, p. 74.
Childhood Education, fall, 2007, Connie Green, review of By the Sword, p. 48.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007, review of By the Sword.
School Library Journal, March, 2007, Ann Welton, review of By the Sword, p. 225.
Selene Castrovilla Home Page,http://www.selenecastrovilla.com (January 10, 2008).