"I hope Kentucky stays neutral because I truly don't know what side to take."
At the beginning of the Civil War, Kentucky hasn't sided with the North or the South, but it seems that in Branson Mills everyone has taken sides ... except for Joseph Byers.
He knows that slavery is wrong--he sees firsthand how his friend Hannah is mistreated because of the color of her skin. Yet at the same time he recognizes how much trouble speaking out against slavery can cause. His stepfather's abolitionist actions have put the whole family in danger of the vigilante violence that is sweeping the town.
Although Joseph admires his stepfather's bravery, he is afraid to stand up for what he has come to believe. But when the violence escalates, he is forced to take action. In this gripping adventure, Joseph reaches for his own courage to try to save the lives of the people he cares about.
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Bonnie Pryor thoroughly researched important periods of American history for each of her American Adventures. For Luke on the High Seas, she delved into seafaring in the nineteenth century so that the details of Luke Reed's journey would be accurate. She lives in Gambier, Ohio. In Her Own Words...
"I grew up in Spokane, Washington, the middle child in a family of three girls. Books were a part of my life from as far back as I can remember. I was often in trouble for reading at the wrong time. I would be caught reading under the dining room table when I was supposed to be dusting, or reading under the covers by flashlight late at night-even hiding a novel inside my textbooks at school.
"Not everyone thought I read too much. I remember a school librarian who saved all the new books for me to read first, and on several occasions she gave me presents of books. Perhaps she felt she should because I had read every single thing in her library!
"I was very shy, and, like Robert in The Plum Tree War, I spent a lot of my time hanging from my knees from a favorite plum tree, telling myself stories. Of course since I was raised in the West these stories were usually about wild horses and cowboys, and I was always the heroine who came to the rescue. The stories were long and involved, sometimes going on for days. I was always impatient to get to my tree each day so I could find out what was going to happen next, but I was too lazy to write the stories down.
"I think everyone expected me to become a writer, but it took me twenty years and a gentle nudge from my husband, Robert, to build up the courage to try. In the meantime I moved to Ohio, worked at a variety of jobs, and raised a family. I have four grown children, eight grandchildren, and two daughters still at home-Jenny and Chrissy. Many of my books are loosely based upon incidents in my children's lives, and they often appear as characters, in personality if not by name.
"My family recently moved to the country. When I'm not writing and visiting schools, we're busy building barns and fences and laying out flower beds. In addition, we all take part in caring for the four newcomers to our home: three horses and a bunny!"
Bert Dodson is the well-known illustrator of many books for young readers about the American past, most recently Grandpa Was a Cowboy, by Silky Sullivan (Orchard Books), and Buffalo Thunder, by Patricia Wittman (Marshall Cavendish).He lives in Bradford, Vermont.From Booklist:
Gr. 3-5. Set in the small Kentucky town of Branson Mills at the beginning of the Civil War, this well-crafted story gives children a startling glimpse of a community divided by greed, violence, and politics. Joseph tries to stay neutral in a town full of slave owners and Southern rights supporters: he knows slavery is wrong but isn't entirely convinced that the South shouldn't have the right to secede from the Union. He also knows that the few folks who sympathize with the Union--among them, his stepfather--are considered "Yankee traitors." But a series of increasingly violent events, including hostility directed at his family, quickly makes him realize that staying neutral is no longer possible. This new entry in the American Adventures series, a sequel to Joseph: 1861--A Rumble of War (1999), is a great vehicle for increasing awareness and understanding of this pivotal period in our country's history. It's certain to raise plenty of issues for discussion. Lauren Peterson
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