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Literary Notices: Reviews of books for kids

Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 9:42 am

The 150th commemoration of the American Civil War has ended for communities and organizations across the United States.  There are many authors who have written wonderful books about all aspects of the war.  The fourteen book reviews below may help parents and teachers to select books for their children.

Picture Books

Demi.  (2016).  President Lincoln:  From Log Cabin to White House.  Bloomington, IN:  Wisdom Tales.  32 pages.  Hardcover:  $16.95.  Grades:  Kindergarten – 3.

Demi recounts Lincoln’s incredible life story of courage.  The book opens with Lincoln living in a small log cabin in Kentucky and carries his life through to the steps of the White House.  A beautifully illustrated and produced book that all children should have at home or school.

Fletcher, Susan.  (2016). Dadblamed Union Army Cow.  Illustrated by Kimberly Buicken Root.  New York:  Candlewick Press.  32 pages.  Paperback:  $7.99.  Hardcover:  $14.08.  Grades:  Kindergarten – 3.

Fletcher’s soulful-eyed bovine on the front cover celebrates a true story of a cow that accompanied her owner to the Civil War.  The cow refuses to leave him throughout the war, and later, saves his life when he is in the hospital by producing milk.  Two phrases run through the text:  “dadblamed cow” and “moo.”  The children will love the repetitive device.  Root’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations show the confusion of pain of battle and the grim reality of war.

Van Steenwyk, Elizabeth.  (2016).  How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln:  The Story Behind the Nation’s First Female Detective.  Illustrated by Valentina Bellioni.  New York:  Albert Whitman & Company.  32 pages.  Hardcover:  $16.99.  Grades:  Preschool – 3.

The author has penned the intriguing story of how the first female detective saved the life of President Lincoln.  The beautifully illustrated books opens in 1858 when Kate goes to see Allen Pinkerton for a job.  At that time, there were only male detectives, but Kate explains that she could find out secrets because she is a woman.  Allen hires her on a trial basis thinking that maybe she could be of use to the agency.  Kate overhears a plot to kill Lincoln while enroute to Washington, D. C. from Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln is persuaded to wear a cloak and to take another train to Washington.  Kate saves the day.  This is a wonderful, exciting book for any classroom.

Chapter Books

Abbott, E. F.  (2016).  John Lincoln Clem:  Civil War Drummer Boy.  New York:  Fewel & Friends/Macmillan.  192 pages.  Hardcover:  $11.99.  Kindle:  $9.99.  Grades:  4 – 9.

Abbott has written a wonderful story of a young man determined to fight for his country.  Johnny sneaks onto a train filled with men from the 3rd Ohio Union Regiment.  He is caught, but absolutely refuses to go home.  The soldiers take him in and he becomes a drummer boy.  As the Civil War rages on, Johnny experiences many terrible events and watches his friends dying.  This is a great book for any classroom or home library.

Benjamine, Faye.  (2016).  Enemies on the Battlefield.  New York:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc.  File size:  6728 zkB.  Kindle:  $6.99.  330 pages.  Paperback:  $14.99.  Grades:  5 – 9.

The main character in this book is Randolph Waverly, one of the aristocratic planters who owned several hundred acres close to the Chattahoochee River in Tennessee.  When Randolph hears the winds of war over the conflict of free states and slave states, he learns that two of his six children question slavery.  He sends them to live with his sister in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cohn, Scott.  (2016).  Beyond Their Years:  Stories of Sixteen Civil War Children.  Springfield, TN:  Globe Pequot Press/An Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield.  168 pages.  Paperback:  $12.71.  Grades:  6 – 12.

The author has written an intriguing book about the lives of sixteen children who survived the American Civil War.  These children found themselves on the edge of the battle-both in combat and in their daily lives.  One of the children addressed in the book is Ransom Powell, a thirteen-year old drummer boy who survived a grueling Confederate prison.

Conkling, Winifred.  (2016).  Passenger on the Pearl:  The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery.  Chapel Hill, NC:  Algonquin Young Readers.  170 pages.  Paperback:  $8.26.  Hardcover:  $15.49.  Kindle:  $9.99.  Grades:  7 – 12.

The character of this historical narrative is a true story involving several people trying to escape from slavery in 1848.  The Pearl was a ferry 13-year-old Emily Edmonson and other runaway slaves from Washington, D. D. to free soil in the north.  The ship was captured the next day and Emily goes from a Virginia slave pen to the New Orleans slave market.  The book continues to follow Emily’s life in slavery as well as the plight of the abolitionists who planned the escape.  Ultimately, Emily and her sister are freed, educated, and become abolitionists themselves.  Each page of the book is heart wrenching.  It is clearly written, well documented and includes primary source documents such as photographs, paintings, manifests, and posters.  The source notes, bibliography, and index are helpful to young researchers.

Cordell, M. R.  (2016).  Courageous Women of the Civil War:  Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More.  Chicago:  Chicago Review Press.  256 pages.  Hardcover:  $19.99.  Grades:  7 – 12.

This book is one in a series titled, Women in Action.  The book shares with the reader the stories of 15 remarkable women who served as soldiers, nurses, spies, or doctors during the Civil War.  The book is well researched and well documented with sidebars, historical photos, source notes, and a bibliography.

Freeman, Russell.  (2016).  Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass:  The Story Behind an American Friendship.  New York:  HMH Books for Young Readers.  128 pages.  Paperback:  $10.60.  Hardcover:  $14.40.  Kindle:  $13.99.  Grades:  6 – 9.

Freedman has written a lucid and fascinating, well-researched account of two lives that were parallel and how they came together in the Civil War.  Both men were self-taught, avid readers and believers in the importance of literacy.  The first chapters give the history of Douglass’s upbringing, the next chapters give the history of Lincoln’s childhood, and the last part of the book follows the men into adulthood.  The book is beautifully produced with many black and white photographs and drawings.  It includes a bibliography, list of sources for the quotes, picture credits, and an index, which makes this an excellent choice for school research.

Goodman, Michael.  (2016).  Civil War Spies:  Wartime Spies.  Mankato, MN:  Creative Paperbacks.  48 pages.  Paperback:  $12.00.  Hardcover:  $38.50.  Grades:  5 – 9.

Goodman shares with the reader a unique book on spies during the Civil War.  The book includes elaborated stories of such well-known spies as Pauline Cushman and Elizabeth Van Lew.  The book is well researched and documented and contains photographs.

Lovejoy, Sharon.  (2016).  Running out of night.  New York:  Yearling.  304 pages.  Paperback:  #$7.99.  Hardcover:  $1.59.  Kindle:  $7.99.  Grades:  5 – 9.

The author has written a captivating story that is both historical and yet contemporary.  The story revolves around Zenobia, a fugitive slave, and a white girl who has been denied a name is mistreated by her motherless family.  The two resolve to flee together.  They have not planned a route, but are determined to reach Waterford, a Quaker town where folks will help them to their escape.  Along the way, Zenobia names the girl Lark, after the bird, for her ability to mimic its song.  The two continually elude the slave catchers and incensed family members chasing them.  During their flight, the two runaways meet an older teen, Brightwell, who is also bound for Waterford.  Upon reaching Waterford, they learn that villains are still trailing them.

Norton, Andre.  (2016).  Ride Proud, Rebel.  Radford, VA:  Wilder Publications.  180 pages.  Paperback:  $8.99.  Hardcover:  $26.95.  Kindle:  $0.00.  Grades 6 – 12.

The book follows the main character’s career as a Confederate scout as the Southern cause becomes more and more desperate.  Drew comes to Red Springs and Boyd; his young brother wants to join the Confederate Army of Tennessee.  The rebels are always short on food, ammunition, clothing, and as a result, plunder the Yankees at every opportunity.  The main character, a Kentucky horse lover, is a mounted scout, and the important role played by horses and mules during the war is portrayed with care.

Shoulders, Michael.  (2016).  Crossing the Dead Line:  Stephen’s Journey Through the Civil War.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sleeping Bear Press.  288 pages.  Paperback:  $9.99.  Hardcover:  $16.99.  Grades:  5 – 9.

The author has written a compelling story of a young man, Stephen, whose father passes away at the beginning of the Civil War.  He and his mother are left at the mercy of a cruel uncle.  His brother enlists in the Union Army to help support the family.  As the war drags on, Stephen, an accomplished bugler in the local band, sees first hand the sad consequences of slavery.  When he is given the opportunity to become Eli Lilly’s personal bugler, Stephen jumps at the chance.  After the Battle of Sulphur Trestle in Alabama, he is captured and sent to a Confederate camp.  Stephen is able to tolerate the cruelties of the prison and eventually he is sent, along with prisoners to board the steamboat, Sultana.  Stephen survives when the boat capsizes.  This book is intriguing and keeps the reader waiting to find out what is going to happen next.


McCoy, Sarah,  (2016).  The Mapmaker’s Children:  A Novel.  New York:  Broadway Books/An Imprint of Crown Publishers.  336 pages.  Paperback:  $12.00.  Hardcover:  $17.00.  Kindle:  $12.99.  Grades:  9 – 12.

Sarah Brown, the daughter of John Brown, tries to find creative ways to save the lives of slaves escaping from the South.  She becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s best mapmakers.  Sarah takes her cues from the slave code quilts and hides her maps within her paintings.

-By Dr. Judy Pierce and Dr. Pamela Jukes