Caroline's papa has barely returned home before frightening news arrives--British warships are headed for Sackets Harbor, ready to attack. Every able-bodied man, including Papa, must go and fight. Mama and Caroline are left alone to guard Abbot's Shipyard from the enemy. Caroline tells herself that she will do anything to keep Papa's shipyard safe! But when the battle seems to be lost, Mama gives her a terrible order: They must burn the shipyard to the ground to keep it from the enemy. It's the one thing Caroline isn't sure she can do.
In the fourth and previous book of the American Girls: Caroline series, Caroline Takes A Chance, Caroline was reunited with her father, who had been captured by the British at the onset of the War of 1812. Now, he's come home... but so has the war. Caroline's Battle is the height of the Caroline series' action; battle comes to Sackets Harbor, and Caroline finds herself trusted to make a mature and heartbreaking choice: if it looks like the British are likely to win, Caroline will need to summon the willpower to burn her father's beloved shipyard to the ground, lest it fall into the hands of their enemy.
It's a fairly exciting war story for a children's book, on par with the climax of Meet Caroline, and the main character gets yet another opportunity to prove her capability. Caroline continues to be a strong and sympathetic character in emotional and often dire circumstances, and Caroline's Battle does nothing to detract from my opinion of her as a worthy addition to the American Girl lineup.
The one thing I'm not entirely pleased with about the book is that the end is a bit of a cop-out, in my opinion; at the last minute, the orders to burn the shipyard become unnecessary and Caroline is spared the emotional upheaval of losing it. Personally, I would have liked to see it burn, with the next book dealing with Caroline's sense of loss... but alas.
There are two more Caroline books to go--the last of her series proper, Changes for Caroline, which takes a step back from the war, and Traitor in the Shipyard, a mystery that deals with some of the moral ambiguities of the War of 1812. At the time of this review, I've read both of these books and much prefer one to the other... but I'll get those reviews up soon. In any case, American Girls: Caroline is a solid American Girls series and a fine tribute to the bicentennial, and it's definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the franchise.