Three books in and Rush Limbaugh has a certified blockbuster series on his hands, and in the lucrative field of children’s books. Children’s books about a ice tea spokesman who romps around American history with a wise-cracking, time-traveling horse of all things. It’s worth mentioning he’s done this without the glut and orgasmic praise that typically surrounds a ‘celebrity’ (usually the ghoulish types that becomes permanent fixtures of daytime television garbage), pushing whatever they might be pushing heaped with praise and adulation – usually none of it firsthand as few of these botaxed creatures actually read.
In truth, whatever mechanism typically employed to push agenda books to the populace has been largely absent, often reversed, with Limbaugh’s two previous efforts, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims and the follow-up, Rush Revere and the First Patriots. Beyond all reason, they’ve become best-sellers and even (gasp) award-winners. Unlike most of the culture curators who ‘know better’ I’ve actually read and reviewed both, having liked and recommended them as decent primers on early American history rarely seen in today’s overprotective landscape of politically correctness.
Rush Revere and the American Revolution, book three in the series, is easily the most ambitious, most expansive entry yet. It’s also the most disappointing, and for equally disappointing reasons.
The star for this go-around is Cam, who we first met in the last adventure. We soon learn Cam’s dad is off fighting in Afghanistan, leaving him dejected and a constant worry for his poor mom, Danielle, who’s left to raise him alone on the military base they live at. Not helping matters is the local bully (named Billy, as it happens), who seems hellbent on making Cam’s life a living nightmare.
Maybe all the poor kid needs is a little historical intervention by the tricorne hat-wearing Limbaugh stand-in Rush Revere and his wise-cracking, time-traveling horse Liberty. What’s not to love?
It’s not long before Rush, Liberty and Cam are joined by series regulars Tommy and Freedom and they’re off “rush, rush, rushing into history” once again, intersecting with key moments and figures of the American Revolution like George Washington, Paul Revere, and Dr. Joseph Warren.
I have no problem with the inaccuracies of time-travel (via horse) or the utter abandonment of the space-time continuum as presented here (again, talking horses), but this adventure showcases a series of moral and ethical lapses that cannot be ignored, starting when Rush brings his young charges to witness the Battle of Lexington Green, endangering their lives and nearly getting one killed.
Does this sound like the dialogue of a teacher fully in command of his young charges, even one with the ability to travel through time?
“‘Cam, those are real bullets and we are in real danger, stay down,’ I said, but I couldn’t take my own advice. I ducked down and started running toward the tree, the smoke, and toward the people fleeing the Redcoats. I could barely see. My eyes burned from the gunpowder and the air smelled like burnt matches.”
After one of the kids is nearly shot (“It only grazed the skin”) Rush manages to lay the blame on them for failing to listen to his instructions (real slick, Revere), somehow forgetting the inherent risks of bringing modern kids into historically bloody and dangerous battles. “The historian in me was thrilled to see the battle I had read about over and over again. But the teacher in me was panic stricken.”
So what does he do after nearly getting the kids killed at one such dangerous historical battle? Why, it’s off to another, this time the Battle of Concord, to take smartphone snaps and send texts into the future. The Rush Revere character may have good intentions (apart from hocking ice tea in the real world), but increasingly he comes off as a simple-minded man with a Patriot fetish.
There’s also an extended metaphor that attempts to equate Revolutionary military strategy with a pretty fierce game of dodge-ball, which by itself is a neat learning mechanic. Shame the only real message I got from it was that if you’re going to take on school bullies by way of dodge-ball, better make sure you’ve got a fat friend handy.
Another curiosity: this is the first in the series to co-credit Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, which in the case of celebrities and sports heroes usually means they actually wrote the thing. Apart from Kathryn there are two other credits listed this time around: Jonathan Adams Rogers as Historical Consultant and Chris Schoebinger as Children’s Writing Consultant.
Chris will probably be a familiar name to Glenn Beck fans (having co-authored and worked on several younger-reader books with that other radio personality), but for the love of me I couldn’t find much to say about Jonathan Rogers, other than he shares a middle-name with Kathryn and most likely a bloodline.
Maybe it’s just me, but the writing feels more stilted and less free-flowing this time around. It’s difficult to pinpoint just what the difference is, but there’s a sterility to the proceedings that just wasn’t present in the first two books. I’d reckon this has to do with so many ‘assistants’, as the series’ increasing popularity has probably necessitated kid gloves (no pun intended), but the zaniness and overall sense of mirth is largely absent here.
Artist Chris Hiers returns to illustrate Rush Revere’s zany adventures, and while I’ve never been a fan of his work before (too Photoshopped and bland for my taste), I’ll give credit when it’s due. This is easily his best effort yet on the series, with full-color (and often full-page) illustrations that look more interesting than earlier books. In fact, I’d say his is the only contribution here that actually improves on what came before. His depictions of children still look ghastly, but you can’t win them all.
As always, the best ‘artwork’ in this series remains the real thing; be they reproductions of actual portraits, documents, or even recent snapshots of the locations described in the text. I also like how portraits of famous faces are presented – one annotation in particular, of John Hancock, with the tag “This is John Hancock, looking relaxed” made me smile. It’s funny!
I’ve defended previous books in the series for their surprising lack of partisan politics, especially from those who would take one look at the author’s name and screech for the hills. But that’s not the case here, as Limbaugh & Company drum the ‘Support Our Troops’ mantra a little too often for my – and I imagine most patriotic Americans – tastes. Apart from the constant reminder that Cam’s father is stationed in Afghanistan there are multiple reminders, even a fake full-page advertisement, to keep the message loud and clear. Real photos of young Rush Revere fans snuggling Rush Revere plushies and showing off audiobooks(!) help pad things out, too, leaving me with a real feeling of being pandered to like I hadn’t with the previous two volumes.
At 256 pages Rush Revere and the American Revolution isn’t series’ biggest (it ties The First Patriots for that honor) but the weighty subject matter and constant pandering make it feel that way. There’s definitely value in the whimsical approach to American history here, especially in the unique first-person accounting of significant battles and figures like George Washington and others. But the title character’s serious lapses in judgment – and failure to fully appreciate his mistakes – may scare off some readers – and their parents.
More to the point, this one feels more preachy, more conservative, than either of its predecessors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as I’d be just as uncomfortable recommending biased progressive indoctrination to younger readers, I must do the same here. Better luck next time.