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Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender: The True Story of a Civil War Spy (Carolrhoda Picture Books) Library Binding – April 1, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jones is an award-winning author who graduated from Vermont's College's MFA program. She is the author of the YA novels Girl, Hero; Love (and other uses for duct tape); and Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, which was nominated for a YALSA Quick Pick and won the Maine Literary Award. She lives in Maine.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Series: Carolrhoda Picture Books
  • Library Binding: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761353992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761353997
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Yana V. Rodgers on March 9, 2011
Format: Library Binding
With an abusive father who clearly favored boys over girls, Sarah Emma Edmonds started early in her childhood pretending to be a boy. This skill came in handy later on when she ran away from Canada to the United States and she needed to earn money. Back in the mid-1800s, few women held paid jobs, and Emma could earn more taking on the role of a young man named Frank Thompson. Emma kept her alter ego Frank when she enlisted as a male nurse in the Union army during the Civil War. She even pretended to be Frank pretending to be several other people when "Frank" worked as a Union spy behind Confederate lines. Her motives for doing so may have had as much complexity as her multiple roles.

Dramatic illustrations and carefully-selected vignettes make this informative biographical account of an unusual Civil War soldier accessible to young learners. Although the text is a bit sparse, parents and teachers can use the book to stimulate discussion about how gender discrimination in employment and women's roles in the military have changed over time.
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Format: Library Binding
Sarah Emma wasn't really a boy, but she pretended to be because she wanted to please her father. He was really mean to her and "she thought if she were a boy he might like her." It wasn't going to happen because he was abusive and nothing she could do would ever change the way he felt about her. Sarah was really, really good at pretending and eventually that talent would come in mighty handy, but in the meantime she'd have to put up with that big old accusing finger pointing at her. She knew that being a "pretend boy" would never make him happy so when she was a teenager she decided to run away.

Being a runaway teen from Canada wasn't going to help her eat and so she started selling Bibles. It wasn't safe for women to roam the countryside in the 1850s so she decided to pretend again. This time she "bought men's clothes and cut her hair." Sarah, or Frank Thompson as she was now known, began her new life in the United States. Soon the Civil War began to roil around the country and in 1861 she thought to herself, "What can I do? What part am I to act in this great drama?" She pensively put her hand to her chin and decided that she would try to join the Union only to be rejected for being "too small." There was no doubt she would try again.

Finally, when she was able to enlist Sarah became a nurse in the Second Volunteers of the United States Army. They were headed to the South where the fighting was fierce. As Sarah stood outside a tent watching someone being operated on, she once again grew pensive. There was a great need for someone to spy because a Union soldier had just been captured. Sarah was still Frank, but she was also a great pretender. Could she possibly pretend enough to get the job?
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Format: Library Binding
Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender: The True Story of a Civil War Spy tells the incredible story of a girl who pretended to be several people, even pretending to be different races!

Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Great Pretender opens with Sarah depicted as a boy. Carrie Jones explains Sarah was unhappy about being a boy in 1840's Canada...and so was her father. The story doesn't go into explicit details, only saying "He treated Sarah badly." The use of these statements helps as an excellent framing device for Sarah's "pretending," keeping the story short.

Once in the United States, Sarah sold Bibles door-to-door only to find many people weren't buying. Jones puts a little historical context in here, explaining "It was unusual back then for a woman to travel by herself, and people weren't buying a lot of books." So Sarah turned to pretending to be a man. She cut off her hair, dressed more masculine, and referred to herself as Frank Thompson. The result, Jones adds was "she started selling a lot more Bibles."

Then came the Civil War. As Shelf Employed blog points out, the war details aren't rehashed for readers in Sarah Emma Edmonds; only brief details are given for Sarah is the heroine here. In 1861, Sarah decides to enlist as Frank Thompson, male nurse. Sarah/Frank volunteered to spy on the Confederacy for the Union, after their spy was captured. This time she became Cuff, a Southern slave and darkened her skin with silver nitrate. While spying, Sarah found out numerous information for the Union, including the fact the Confederacy painted giant logs as cannons!

Sarah Emma Edmonds goes on to pretend to be an female Irish peddler named Bridget O'Shea.
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