Gunpowder and Tea Cakes

Gunpowder and Tea Cakes is my first book about Felicity Merriman, the American Girl character who lives during the Revolutionary War. It also features a modern girl who travels back in time and meets Felicity in her home town of Williamsburg, Virginia.


This was a special project.  I’ve been visiting Williamsburg for a long time!

That's me proudly wearing a tricorn hat in Williamsburg when I was about six years old.

That’s me proudly wearing a tricorn hat in Williamsburg when I was about six years old.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum—the largest in the world! Historians saved many old buildings there and restored them to look as they did in Felicity’s time. Interpreters wearing reproduction clothing help visitors understand what life was like for the people living there over two hundred years ago.


Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia colony. Some of the things that happened there led to the Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the American colonies. After American Girl invited me to write this book, I went back to Colonial Williamsburg to do research.

In this picture, a man who is ready to fight the British is arguing with a man who wants to try harder to work problems out peacefully.

A volunteer soldier who is ready to fight the British argues with a man who wants to work problems out peacefully. This type of program helps visitors understand the conflict.

I learned a lot about the Revolutionary War, but I also needed to know everyday things, such as how to describe the city…


Two riders travel down the Duke of Gloucester Street in front of old homes and shops.

and Felicity’s father’s store.


The items on the shelves all might have been sold in the Merrimans’ store.

I visited busy kitchens,


An interpreter demonstrating cooking over an open fire.

and shops.


The shoemaker at work.



This lady is an expert wigmaker.

I especially wanted to learn what life was like for girls like Felicity in the 1770s.

Version 2

Flying a kite on the Duke of Gloucester Street.



The type of doll Felicity might have played with.

I also paid attention to what kids visiting today were most interested in.


A young visitor asks an interpreter a question at the apothecary.



Two girls getting into the spirit of colonial life in their pretty hats!

As I explored Williamsburg, I started imagining scenes I wanted to write.  Since Gunpowder and Tea Cakes is a time-travel book, I also imagined how a modern girl might react to everything.

And I asked lots and lots of questions.  The interpreters I met were great!


Before writing the book I did lots of other kinds of research too. But we’re lucky that Colonial Williamsburg exists as a living museum, to help provide just a glimpse of an important time in America’s history.


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5 Responses to “Gunpowder and Tea Cakes”

  1. g2-c9660617d79eaed422ad6043f9f86db4 Says:

    I love Colonial Williamsburg too. I dreamed about going there for years, but I was an adult before I made my first trip in 1984. It was so much more than I expected.I have been back countless times and each time there are new things they have done for me to learn about as they discover through their research. I can hardly wait to read your book about the modern girl meeting Felicity.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      It really is a site to be visited more than once, because so much is going on as programs emerge, seasons change, etc. I hadn’t been for quite a while when I went back to do research for this book, and was delighted with some of the new programming and activities. I hope you enjoy the story!

  2. Ruth Nelson-Lau Says:

    I have always wanted to visit Williamsburg! I will get there before I die. My husband and I love visiting historic sites. It will be fun to read this book.

  3. IrishAG Says:

    I can’t wait to read your Felicity books! Williamsburg is one of my favorite places on earth, you captured it beautifully with your photos. 🙂
    ❤ , Irihh American Girl

  4. QNPoohBear Says:

    I love Colonial Williamsburg and have been there twice with Felicity-once shortly after she was released and once after she was revised the first time. Many of the interpreters knew who she was and were happy to stop and chat. I also love your AG books and know that this will will be expertly researched. I KNOW how girls today react to that time “People didn’t have toilets back then!” is the one thing my niece got got out of a trip to a historic house museum. She learned something, which was great! (Though the event centered around Samantha and her time). “Women stuck their hands in the fireplace?!” I use my AGs as a teaching tool to show girls what life was like in the past. It’s so much fun to time travel and enter into their worlds. Last year I got to lead the AG tour at the history museum where I work. I’ll have to suggest we sell this book in the gift shop so the girls who visit can continue the time travel experience.

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