Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War

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9780060276973: Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War

A thirteen-year old boy lies about his age to join the Union forces duringAmerica's bloodiest war. No matter what happens, a drummer boy in the Civil War must keep playing his drum to relay orders and rally spirits. He doesn't fight, but he sees it all: from the glow of the camp fire to the glare of battle, the drummer boy watches the friendships that war creates and then breaks apart. Ann Turner's powerful text and Mark Hess's stunning artwork reveal the drama and heartache of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of a boy not too young to be a hero.

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About the Author:

Ann Turner is the author of many novels, picture books, and poetry collections for young children. Her novel A Hunter Comes Home was an ALA Notable Children's Book of 1980, and her first picture book, Dakota Dugout, received the same honor in 1985. Among her other books are Rosemary's Witch, a School Library Journal Best Book of 1991 and Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies, a Reading Rainbow selection. Ms. Turner lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, with her husband Richard, and their two children, Benjamin and Charlotte.

In Her Own Words ...

I was one of those children who sniffed, slept on, and sometimes ate books. Once a week my father would go to the library and bring back seven books, one for each day of the week. I would open my mouth like a baby bird to devour food. I really think I would have died, had I not had books.

I wrote my first story when I was eight, about a dragon and a dwarf named Puckity. I still have it and use it when talking to children. The story shows that children have tales to tell, and ones worth telling. I was encouraged in my writing through school and college, but was afraid I could not do it. I trained as a teacher and taught for one year, but quickly decided that I would rather write books than teach them. I tried my hand at poetry for two years and had one poem published.

It wasn't until my mother, an artist, suggested that we do a book together about vultures that I tried writing for children. So my first book was about natural history, and I loved learning about vultures and watching them in Florida.

The queerest thing about writing is how a story chooses you, instead of you choosing it. I often feel as if I am walking along quietly, minding my own business, when a story creeps up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. "Tell me, show me, write me!" it whispers in my ear. And if I don't tell that story, it wakes me up in the morning, shakes me out of my favorite afternoon nap, and insists upon being told.

Writers write for the same reason readers read - to find out the end of the story. I never know the endings of my stories when I start out; I must wrestle my way through them, punching out unnecessary words, arguing with self-important paragraphs, until I arrive at the end thirsty, tired, but victorious. This tells you, of course, that writing is not easy for me. Once in a blue moon it is, but most of the time it is hard, hard work. And I work every day. I sit down at my computer and write. It could be about anything, or anyone - my husband, Rick, my children Ben and Charlotte, or the woods that surround our house in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Remember that you have stories to tell, too. Remember that you have a voice that is worth being heard. Write your stories down, keep journals. Learn to be a spy. I am a nosy, curious spy who eavesdrops on people at the beach, or as they stroll along at the mall. I always wonder; "Why is she walking so fast? Is she mad? How come his mouth looks like that? What is that lady saying to her child?" If you keep your eyes and ears open, you will see that you are surrounded by drama and astonishing things, even in the midst of everyday life. Notice it; write it down, and who knows, maybe someday you will be a writer, too.

From Publishers Weekly:

Turner (Dust for Dinner) takes readers to a Civil War battlefield in this disturbing picture book narrated by an idealistic 13-year-old. The premise is much the same as that of Gary Paulsen's novel Soldier's Heart (reviewed July 20); unfortunately, the lessons may be too complex for a picture book audience, at least in this treatment. The narrator, a farm boy, has liked Lincoln ever since he gave a speech in the boy's town, and sometime after war breaks out (no specific time or place is given) the memory of that encounter inspires him to join up. He also wants to free the slaves. Lying about his age, he is enlisted as a drummer boy, asked to march with the troops and "raise a tune for our men in battle." In the heat of bloody confrontation, the boy witnesses the atrocities of war. He holds the hand of a mortally wounded soldier "until his eyes stopped seeing." Poetic turns of phrase further describe how grim reality quickly dims a boy's bright-eyed patriotism. But there are problems here. The passage about slavery seems tacked on, the boy never feels fully real and the most interesting information about drummer boys is relegated to an afterword. The ending misfires: the boy bitterly blames Lincoln for making him "see things no boy should ever see." Hess's (Hercules: The Man, the Myth, the Hero) atmospheric, dramatic scenes capture period touches as well as the serenity of rural life and the action of combat. But he, too, stumbles: while all of the other scenes are carefully lit and detailed, a view of slave quarters is so muddy and imprecise that a slave woman looks shockingly misshapen and simian. Well intended but off the mark. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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