Thursday, March 24, 2011

150th Anniversary of the Civil War

Historical fiction writer Carolyn Reeder has several books that are set during the Civil War. Her readers often ask her, “Why do you always write about wars?” She used to remind them that two of my books are Blue Ridge Mountain stories and one is about canal boaters. But then she realized that none of her books is about war. They are all about young people who are facing challenges in their lives. Often, though, their challenges are caused by war—whether the fighting is going on near where they live or on the other side of the world.

To learn more about Carolyn Reeder visit her site and her booking service page.

Shades of Gray
Reeder's ALA Notable tale takes on the Civil War after the fact, and on the side of the Confederacy. It's a narration of the trials and tribulations of young Will Page, orphaned rebel extraordinaire. After losing his Virginia family, Will is taken from the city of Winchester to live with his aunt and uncle in the country. He doesn't mind the unexpectedly hard labor around the farm, and he rather likes his younger cousin, Meg. What he can't accept is what he sees as cowardice in his Uncle Jed, who refused to fight for the South. Will has a lot to work out, and a huge chip to get off his shoulder, but finally learns the difference between cowardice and choosing to live by one's beliefs. This is a book that should elicit strong and useful debate in the American History curriculum. 1991, Avon Camelot, $12.95 and $4.50. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature).
Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Children's Book Award, 1989 Winner
Jane Addams Children's Book Award, 1990 Honor Book
Jefferson Cup Award, 1990 Winner
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 1990 Winner
ISBN: 9780027758108

Across the Lines
Carolyn Reeder sets her story in 1864 as twelve-year-old Edward prepares to leave his plantation home when war encroaches. He looks everywhere for Simon, his servant and his best friend. Simon, however, chooses to stay missing because he's determined to find freedom. Reeder's skillful alternating chapters tell of Edward's search for self, Simon's search for belonging, and the turmoil of besieged Petersburg. Reeder shows her talent for research and for creating characters who make us care. 1997, Atheneum, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children's Literature).
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
Best Children's Books of the Year, 1998; Bank Street College of Education
ISBN: 9780689811333

Timothy Donovan’s Story
Timothy Donovan isn’t a coward . . . not exactly. But he is prickly, overly defensive, stubborn to a fault, and not precisely certain he really wants to give his life for his country. This is not historical fiction’s standard image of the Civil War’s loveable fourteen-year-old bugler boy. Carolyn Reeder is braver than her protagonist in taking a stance for the secret doubters who surely peopled the Civil War’s battlefields in greater percentAges than are ever allowed. In the first part of her Before the Creeks Ran Red trilogy, Reeder sets her young bugler in Charleston Harbor during the months leading to the firing on Fort Sumter and the irrevocable declaration of war between North and South that event precipitates. Along the way she takes on other complex topics: petty feuding between the non-commissioned men; the lack of faith in Sumter’s southern-bred, vacillating commandant; near-starvation conditions within the blockaded island fortress. By the time the Stars and Stripes are lowered and Fort Sumter is evacuated, Timothy has done some maturing. But he’s still not sure he wants to die for the Union. This is a provocative thought. That the choice might not be his is another one. Reeder’s novelette is filled with these classroom discussion bombshells. 2007 (orig. 2003), Children’s Literature, $6.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781890920159

Gregory Howard’s Story
People were taking sides in Alexandria, Virginia. The Secessionists believed in the rights of states to make their own decisions and felt that they had a right to withdraw and be independent. The Unionists, on the other hand, supported the federal government. Gregory, his mother, and his siblings were Secessionists, but his father was a staunch Union supporter. Gregory witnessed the events leading up to the war. He watched the Confederate Stars and Bars replace the Union Stars and Stripes at the Marshall House Hotel. When the Union troops moved in to occupy the city, Gregory saw the conflict over the flags result in the death of a citizen. The Union soldiers invaded people’s homes, demanding food, and taking whatever appealed to them. Much of the plot centers on Gregory’s efforts to recover a treasured music box for his ill sister. Author’s notes at the end clarify the factual information within the story. A good choice for students who want to understand some of the emotional and personal issues that go beyond the usual facts and dates presented in Civil War units. 2003, Children’s Literature Paperback, $6.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781890920173

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