The Year of The Hangman Book Blog

Join an 8th grade American History class in Liberty, Missouri as they read the historical novel "The Year of the Hangman" and ask what would have happened if the Patriots would have lost the American Revolutionary War....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Feedback - Let Me Hear It

Hello. Thanks so much to all of you that particpated in The Year of the Hangman Book Blog. I know that I learned a lot from this process and I hope that you also thought it was a worthwhile experience. I would love to hear your feedback on the project.

Here are some possible questions for your feedback:
  • What did you like about the project?
  • What did you not like about the project?
  • If you didn't post often - why not?
  • What did you think of the questions each week?
  • Did you perfer one big question (like the one for Week4) or would you rather have choice from multiple questions (like we did in Weeks 1 through 3)?
  • Would you like more interaction with the author?
  • Did you like the additional links to learn more about some of the characters in the novel?
  • Would you do a project like this again? Why or why not?

I do hope to do this again around the end of April 2006 with a book called "Guerrilla Season" by Pat Hughes. This is one of favorite books of all time - the Civil War in Missouri with a young Jesse James as one of the characters, well researched, very historically accurate and the storyline is engaging. Check out the book blog for Guerrilla Season at I have some ideas that I think will make this book blog even more interactive so check it out

Again please drop me a line at Thanks so much.

Eric Langhorst
South Valley Jr High School
Liberty, Missouri

Monday, March 27, 2006

Welcome to Week Four - March 27 to April 2

Greetings and welcome to week four of The Year of the Hangman book blog. This week you will finish the novel. In recent weeks we have had multiple questions and the discussions have been great. This week we change it up a bit and have only one question. It's a good one so read below and get ready to make a comment. The great thing about this week's question is we really want to hear from you. I know some of you have been reading the novel but haven't posted yet. That's OK. This is your chance to voice your opinion. Even if you have not posted a single item all month - go ahead and type in a response to this question.

I am attempting to get some feedback from Gary Blackwood on the blog. I know he is very busy right now but I'll see if we can have him join us for some questions.

Next week I would like to open up the blog for some final thoughts and feedback on how you think this experiment went and what I can do to make it better. I do plan on doing this again and I want to improve it each time we read a new book.

If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me at

Week 4 - Question #1

This week you will finish the book. We have had multiple questions for each of the past weeks. This week you have just one question on which to comment.

The Year of the Hangman is a novel in which the author has taken a historical event and given it an alternate ending. Now it is your turn. This week your comment needs to be an alternate ending to The Year of the Hangman. Tell us how you would change the ending. Tell us what happens to the various characters. What happens to George Washington? What happens to Crieghton, his uncle, Sophie, Ben Franklin........ This is your chance to write an alternate ending, be creative and good luck. Maybe the author will make a comment or two about your alternate endings.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Welcome to Week Three - March 20-26

Hello. Thanks for checking in with The Year of the Hangman Book Blog. We are currently in week 3 of our 4 week project. This week will be reading chapters 12 through 17 (pages 131-187).

We have some interesting questions for you and hope you leave a comment on at least one of them. There was some lively discussion last week on the New Orleans issue and whether or not the city should be rebuilt - some very strong comments both for and against rebuilding the city in its present location.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Week 3 - Question #1

A duel becomes a major event in this portion of the novel. One of the most famous duels in American history tragically takes the life of Alexander Hamilton. Read more about the famous Burr-Hamilton duel that took place in 1804 using this wikipedia link. In your comment for this post explain why you think that Burr actually shot and killed Hamilton.

Read more about the famous 1804 duel with these links:

Week 3 - Question #2

Creighton makes a tough decision when he helps break his uncle out of jail. Would you have made the same choice? What other options did Creighton have and what did he risk in making those decisions?

Week 3 - Question #3

A major character in this novel is Benedict Arnold - who in my opinion is one of the most interesting inviduals in American History. In real life he was a hero to the Patriots and later hated by those same soliders. Read a little about the life of Benedict Arnold in this article from Wikipedia and then post a fact that you found interesting.

Week 3 - Question #4

Enemies of the Patriot's cause felt the need to destroy the place where The Liberty Tree newspaper was printed. What do you think this says about the power of the press? Can you think of a recent example in which a newspaper became a powerful tool in waging war or impacting world politics?

Week 3 Questions To Be Posted March 21

Hello. The questions for Week 3 will be posted on Tuesday evening - March 21st. We had spring break here at South Valley Jr High and are starting up classes again on the Tuesday - hence the delay. Thanks for all the great discussions so far and I look forward to seeing your comments and we start the second half of the novel.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Welcome to Week 2 - March 13 - 19, 2006

Hello and welcome back for week 2 of The Year of the Hangman Book Blog. The action is just starting to heat up and this week you learn more about Ben Franklin's print shop, Creighton's uncle and the secret code used by the Liberty Tree newspaper.

Please feel free to post a comment on one or all of the four questions for week 2. If you have an idea for an additional question please e-mail me at and I will post it for everyone. To comment on a post please click on the COMMENT link listed below that particular post.

Last week was an active week on this blog. We have a total of 249 visitors, 918 pages views from 14 different countries and 29 states in the United States. Recent visitors included readers from Iran, Portugal, Chile and Spain. Since so many people are reading the blog please try to use correct grammar in your posts.

Also please note the author, Gary Backwood, has joined the discussion. Read through the comments to see what our author thinks about your comments. If you have any specific questions for Mr. Blackwood please post them as a comment or e-mail me at and I will direct him all other questions.

Thanks for taking part in this cool project. It has been great to see so many people reading, posting and sharing their experiences.

Week 2 - Question #1

The setting for this portion of the novel is the city of New Orleans. Since the devestation of Hurricane Katrina this fall there has been much discussion on the future of this important American city. How do you feel about rebuilding the city of New Orleans? Do you think that the government should spend billions of dollars to rebuild the city of New Orleans and protect it from a future hurricane or should the citizens of New Orleans be asked to pick up and move somewhere else and the city not be rebuilt?

Week 2 - Question #2

Sophie and Creighton are given a great deal of responsibility in Ben Franklin's print shop as teenagers. In colonial America many teenagers around the age of 14 or 15 are doing work and taking responsibility for things today often associated with adults. Do you think that in American society today we wait too long to treat teenagers as adults? What would be some pros and cons of allowing teenagers in America to have the full rights and responsibilities of adults at the age of 15?

Week 2 - Question #3

The code used by Ben Franklin was possible because it used a book the almost every on the colonies was able to access. If you were to write a similar code today, which book would you choose (remember that it should be a book almost everyone has access to or could access). In your comment please list the book you would use and why you choose that book. Would you use a certain book if you were only trying to include a certain group of people?

Week 2 - Question #4

In this portion of the book you have been introduced to Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin was truly one of the most important men in colonial America. The amount of inventions and ideas directly associated with this man is incredible. Check out more about Ben Franklin using this link on the Wikipedia and then post a comment describing at least one way that your life today is directly impacted by one of his ideas.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mid Week Report for Week One

Wow! This is so much fun. The comments are rolling in and they are awesome. Tons of great ideas and comments coming in from all over the country. I hope you are enjoying reading all of the different viewpoints. Don't forget you can also comment on a comment that you found interesting - make it a conversation.

Don't forget that when you write your comment it is being published for the world to read. So far this week this blog site has been viewed by 156 visitors from 10 different countries - United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia, Italy, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic! Since it is being read by so many people you may want to double check your comment before publishing it to the site.

Have fun and keep up the great work. If you have any suggestions or comments please email me at

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Welcome to Week One - March 6-12, 2006

Welcome to week one of The Year of the Hangman book blog. During the week of March 6th through the 12th we will be reading and commenting on the first five chapters of the novel - pages 1 - 65. Leave a comment on any of the questions listed below and check out the instructions for commenting listed below. Please e-mail the moderator of the blog with any questions at

Week 1 - Question #1

This novel deals with alternate history. Think about other major events in history and what might have happened if they turned out differently. Give an example of one historical event and then explain how the world would have been different if the event had ended differently.

Week 1 - Question #2

Creighton had been kicked out of a couple schools for his behavior and was often having to start over at new schools. Think about a time when you had to start at a new school - maybe because you moved or maybe because you are starting at the next level of school (from grade school to middle school for example). What was the thing that scared you the most about having to start at a new school?

Week 1 - Question #3

When it is clear that he will be captured aboard his ship, Creighton's uncle quickly tries to burn all the important papers so they don't fall in the hands of the Americans. He burns almost all of the documents but not all of them. If you were in this situation on the ship what would you have done to destroy the evidence?

Week 1 - Question #4

Creighton often describes America in a negative way - as a wilderness, a land without formal traditions and customs. Why do you think someone from England might think this about America at this time period?

Instructions for Posting to the Blog

Hello! Are you ready? I can't wait to get started with this blog. As I write this on the night before the book blog for The Year of the Hangman starts we a great group of participants - besides the 60+ students at South Valley Junior High in Liberty, Missouri we have readers from Nebraska, Minnesota, Conneticut and New York. I hope everyone has a great time with reading and discussing this book.

Each week during the four week time period we will suggest reading a certain number of chapters and several questions relating to the novel. We hope each particpant will make at least one comment each week. You are welcome to post as many comments as possible and not only reply to the orignial question, but any comment on a question as well. Our hope is to create an online conversation about this novel.

Commenting on the blog is easy. Follow these easy steps:

  • To leave a comment about a question please click on the comment link at the bottom of the blog entry.
  • You can read other comments on the left side of the screen.
  • You can type your comment in the text box on the right of the screen.
  • After typing your comment please select "OTHER" for an identity. You need to only fill out the NAME portion, just leave the WEBSITE blank.
  • Special note on what to type for your name - DO NOT USE YOUR FULL NAME. Any entries with a full name will not be published on the blog. Please use only your first name and possibly an initial for your last name. Example - John Anderson would just be "John A". You are also free to add your location to your name since we have people all over the world - example "John A in Liberty".
  • Next, please type in the word verification key as it appears above. This is to ensure that a person is responding to the blog entry and not a computer program creating SPAM.
  • Your comment will not appear immediately. It will be sent to the moderator of the blog and once it is approved it will be posted.

If you have any questions about posting or what to expect on this book blog please e-mail the moderator, Mr. Langhorst at

Thanks and lets get this thing started. This should be an exciting journey........

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Have you read other books by Gary Blackwood?

Gary Blackwood, the author of The Year of the Hangman, has written some other great novels. Some of the students at South Valley Junior High have read some of these books. Other titles include The Shakespeare Stealer, Shakespeare's Scribe and Wild Timothy. Check out these books at Gary Blackwood's web site. If you have read other books by Mr. Blackwood please let us know which one and what you thought of the book in the comments below. Thanks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Book Blog Starts on March 6th

Hello and welcome to The Year of the Hangman book blog. We are getting set for the March 6th launch of the book blog. A majority of the participants in this book blog will be students from South Valley Junior High in Liberty, Missouri but we encourage students, parents, teachers and community members from all over the world to join us as we read this book over 4 weeks (from March 6th to April 3rd, 2006).

Mr. Langhorst, an 8th grade American History teacher will be the moderator for this book blog and he has described the project in one of his podcasts at Speaking of History. Click here to hear some comments about The Year of the Hangman book blog.

While you are getting ready to start the book blog check out the author Gary Backwood's site. He has written other great books including: The Shakespeare Stealer, Shakespeare's Scribe and Wild Timothy.

If you are looking for a way to purchase The Year of the Hangman to start participating I would suggest checking out the "By The Book" bookstore and coffee bar here in Liberty (phone 816 792 - 3200) or checking out the title on Amazon.

If you have any questions about the book blog please e-mail Mr. Langhorst at