The fictionalized diary of a twelve-year-old boy who joins the Union army as a drummer, and ends up fighting in the Civil War
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Gr. 4^-7. In 1861, 12-year-old Orion Howe joined the Union army as a drummer for the Fifty-fifth Illinois Regiment. In this fictional diary, Orion tells of his experiences: his quiet life at home, where the main annoyance is his little sister; his army training of "eat, sleep, and drill, drill, drill"; his observations of wartime discomfort, disease, and death; his hour of glory--when wounded in the leg, he still managed to take a message to General Sherman; and his return home to find that even his sister is a welcome sight. The many full-page illustrations are colorful and appealing yet also a little disconcerting. The near-photographic quality of the faces is at odds with the more impressionistic style of the paintings as a whole. Also, the sister, who seems to be a toddler when she's depicted in 1861, looks even younger in her mother's arms two years later, though the text notes that she's "looking full grown at almost four years." Artistic reservations aside, the book will serve well as a lively, vivid introduction to the Civil War, particularly as a short book to read aloud or have students read aloud in classrooms. Readers may be interested in G. Clifford Wisler's Drummer Boy of Vicksburg (1996), a longer first-person narrative also based on the wartime experiences of Orion Howe. Carolyn PhelanFrom School Library Journal:
Grade 2-5AThis imagined journal of Orion Howe, a real boy who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery during the Civil War, has the tone of nonfiction. The entries sound like letters a young boy of this time period would write to a friend. Before the war starts, Orion lives on an Illinois farm with his family. The Howes are imbued with faith in President Lincoln as well as a hatred of slavery. Orion and his brother are both drummers and often play them with their father at church picnics. Then, in April of 1861, the boys begin drumming at war meetings. In his journal Orion writes, "It seemed to me that the music is what pushed the men to sign up to fight." In November of that year, he enlists, and the rest of the entries are about his experiences in the war. This book is written from an unabashedly Union perspective. Orion admits that "soldiering in the South is not fun," but his words and actions march forward with a stoic sense of duty. Garland's full-page illustrations are simply stunning. They beautifully enhance the straightforward yet descriptive text. This picture book is perfect for students too young for more graphic depictions of the Civil War such as Jim Murphy's The Boys' War (Clarion, 1990).AJackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
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Book Description Millbrook Press, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110761313885