Monday, July 8, 2013

MIX N'MATCH MONDAY: The Battle of Gettysburg

Historical Fiction


The bloodiest battle in American history is under way . . .

It's 1863, and Thomas and his little sister, Birdie, have fled the farm where they were born and raised as slaves. Following the North Star, looking for freedom, they soon cross paths with a Union soldier. Everything changes: Corporal Henry Green brings Thomas and Birdie back to his regiment, and suddenly it feels like they've found a new home. Best of all, they don't have to find their way north alone-they're marching with the army.

But then orders come through: The men are called to battle in Pennsylvania. Thomas has made it so far . . . but does he have what it takes to survive Gettysburg?


Something as complicated as war can be very difficult to write about, especially for a young audience.  Tarshis does a nice job of presenting a brief look at a key battle of the Civil War for child readers. I found it interesting that she chose to tell the story from the eyes of a young runaway slave boy and his sister.   The I Survived series is a great series for reluctant readers because the stories move quickly while still providing historical background and this book is no different. Once Thomas and his sister runaway and join up as camp followers with the Union army on its way to Gettysburg things really move along providing not only a historical story but an adventure story.  The only problem I had with the book is how easily Thomas and his sister were accepted by the Union soldiers. In reality, their treatment would most likely have varied greatly from the friendly to the bigoted. And traveling through the North would have been difficult as well despite the outlawing of slavery.  And educating black children with white children that's a whole other issue altogether. However, I understand why the author chose not to address these issues since they weren't the main point of the story. Overall, a good read that children are sure to enjoy.


"Four score and seven years ago..." begins Abraham Lincoln's beautiful speech commemorating the three-day battle that turned the tide of the Civil War. The South had been winning up to this point. So how did Union troops stop General Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North? With black-and-illustrations throughout and sixteen pages of photos, this turning point in history is brought vividly to life.


War is a difficult topic to write about for children and yet boys especially like to read about it. The causes of war are especially complex. How do you explain that complexity in a way that is understandable yet accurate. O'Connor does a nice job of that in this book.  While the issues involved in the Civil War were much more complex than explained here, this does provide a nice introduction to the topic.  The illustrations while not 100% accurate provide a glimpse into what it might have been like to be there. A very readable book on a topic that never grows old. Recommended.

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