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The Cemetery Keepers of Gettysburg Hardcover – April 3, 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802780946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802780942
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is outstanding. I know Linda, as we met her in Gettysburg last June. The reason: Linda wrote the book about our best friend, Ruth Angeli, who is the main character's (Mrs Thorn) great granddaughter! Ruth is 90 years old and was honored the days we spent in Gettysburg. She signed autographs, had reporters chasing her. The book is told as if it were in the words of Elizabeth's oldest son, Fred. This family of Thorn's lived in Gettysburg for years, the men all barbers.
The illustrations are outstanding. My favorite illustration is the one where the entire Peter/Elizabeth Thorn family is next in line to shake Abe Lincoln's hand.
This is a great, true story, brought to life, for all ages. Ruth has all the information about Elizabeth, and everyone she told the story to at a book signing we had, was just glued to her words. Linda writes this in perfect ordered timeline, just like Ruth tells it. Linda also has many other books typical of this style of writing. Look her up online. K Patterson
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Format: Hardcover
My mother and I were thrilled to find this book because Elizabeth Thorn is our ancestor - we're descended from a boy born to her about 5 years after the Civil War. Even little details, like the dead horses and the young men abandoning a pregnant Elizabeth and her elderly father to dig the soldiers' graves are all true, and it was said that she dug the graves in the hardest soil in the cemetary! The author did omit some details though: Elizabeth acted as a guide to Union General Howard because he was unfamilliar with the area. The General promised to tell her when it became too dangerous to stay in Gettysburg, and that is the reason why General Howard's messenger ordered her family to evacuate in the book. Another side story is that one of her boys accidentally bumped into President Lincoln and Lincoln patted his head. Thank you Linda Oatman High for doing a great job!
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