From School Library Journal
Grade 1-5–Fred Thorn, the seven-year-old son of the caretaker of Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery, narrates this fictionalized account of his family's experiences during the 1863 Civil War battle. With Papa away fighting, Fred's pregnant mother was left to tend the cemetery, assisted only by her children and parents. During the battle, they fled to a nearby farmhouse full of wounded soldiers. When the conflict ended, they returned home to dig more than a hundred graves, with little outside help. Papa came back several months later, and the brief saga closes with the family attending Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The watercolor illustrations add atmosphere to Fred's spare telling. The design is attractive, with one- and two-page paintings, smaller vignettes, and text columns framed on elegant plaques. The interiors and landscapes provide helpful period detail and scope. Clean brown-ink lines keep grittiness at bay, and the battle scenes are dramatic without being gory. The narrative is immediate and intimate, though it has a removed, slightly stiff quality. There is no demonizing of one side over the other and little detail about the war. No sources are cited, though a brief author's note tells a bit more about the Thorns. Endpapers show a map of Gettysburg, with significant landmarks labeled (accurately, for the most part). Unpardonably, east and west have been reversed on the compass rose. Still, this could be an interesting footnote to Civil War studies, especially given its focus on regular folks–and a woman, in particular.–Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA
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A family of cemetery keepers at Gettysburg is the unique vehicle for describing the battle. In a spare, free-verse text, the oldest boy tells about his father, away fighting for the Union; his pregnant mother; and how the family carries on as best it can. When Confederate and Union soldiers turn Gettysburg into a battlefield, the family is ordered to leave Cemetery Hill. It takes shelter in a nearby farmhouse along with wounded soldiers. After a few days, the family returns to its battered, empty home and begins digging graves. Some months later, Lincoln comes to dedicate a new cemetery. High's sensitive verse creates a vivid yet restrained impression of the boy's experiences. While the lovely ink-and watercolor illustrations are entirely appropriate to the periods before the battle and some time afterward, the sanitized pictures of the fight and its aftermath are altogether too pretty to represent one of the bloodiest battles in the war. Still, the text offers a unique perspective on the Civil War, when the home front too often became the front line. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved