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Book Review: Yankee Blue or Rebel Gray?


Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Books in This Series

• On the Eve of Revolution
• Servant to Abigail Adams
• Escape to Freedom
• Cowboys on the Western Trail
• Our Journey West
• When the Mission Padre Came to the Rancho
• We Came Through Ellis Island
• Hoping for Rain

This book is a wonderful historical fiction covering the years just before and during the Civil War.

The author's device is the book's subtitle, "The Civil War Adventures of Sam Shaw." Sam is a 13-year-old boy living on a farm near Franklin, Tennessee. Sam's aunt Edwina Abbott and her husband lived in Columbus, Ohio. The Shaws supported the Confederacy, and the Abbotts supported the Union. Thus, young Sam Shaw's immediate and extended family are a perfect vehicle with which to present the heartbreaking Civil War reality of family-versus-family and brother-versus-brother. Henry Abbott joined the Union Army. Eli Shaw joined the Confederate Army.

As with the other fantastic books in this series, the main means of presenting information is letters and diary entries. Words chosen are particularly telling; for example, Edwina assures her sister that "at least we may take comfort in knowing that the war cannot last long."

Interspersed are drawings, paintings, maps, and photographs. All are expertly illustrating the major points that the author, Kate Connell, is trying to make.

Both sides of the conflict are presented, from the differing philosophies and expectations to the differing names for things (for example, Bull Run and Manassas for the war's first battle).

Placing the Shaws near Franklin was an especially good idea since it allows the author to describe the home-front consequences of the deadly Battle of Franklin, which took place just a few miles from the Shaw family farm. Young Sam runs off to see the fighting, scaring his family into thinking that he has perished. And young Eli ends up back at the family farm, full of the horrors of war.

The book also wisely includes the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln as an epilogue to the war, with Edwina's sorrowful letter to her sister with the news.

This book is part of National Geographic's new I Am American series. Other books trace other parts of American history. All are recommended as introductions to and refreshers for study.

 

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