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Ghosts of the Civil War Hardcover – January 1, 2002
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From School Library Journal
Rita Hunt Smith, Hershey Public Library, PA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Grade Level : 4 - 6
- Item Weight : 1.17 pounds
- Hardcover : 48 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0689831358
- ISBN-13 : 978-0689831355
- Product Dimensions : 10.16 x 0.45 x 10.28 inches
- Reading level : 8 - 10 years
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; First Edition (January 1, 2002)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,897,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Great book and we will probably get the Ghosts of the Whitehouse too.
The idea is that Lindsey has been dragged by her parents to a Civil War re-enactment (I have been to couple of those in Illinois and at one of them Abraham Lincoln showed up). Lindsey thinks the whole thing is dumb, that there is nothing civilized about a rotten war, and has no idea why the North fought the South. But then she sees a sad little boy who seems lost. He explains that he was just wondering why future folks were playing out the War of the Rebellion. When Lindsey wonders why people in the United States could be so dumb as to war against each other, the boy explains it was because the states where not united at all, and proceeds to show her. The next thing she knows, Lindsey is watching a beardless Abraham Lincoln giving his "House Divided" speech at the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858. Harness provides a two-page spread that show the entire country divided into free states, slave states, and U.S. territories. Off to the side a list of key dates on the road to the Civil War are laid out, while Willie explains to Lindsey how the national was like two different countries, with factories in the North and farms in the South, a distinction emphasized by how Harness illustrates what is happening in each state.
This sets up the basic approach of the book. Each two-spread spread shows a particular scene, from the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the First Battle of Manassas to Pickett's Charge and the Gettysburg Address. The people shown in the pictures make interesting comments (e.g., the old woman at Lincoln's inauguration who saw George Washington sworn-in 72 years earlier at New York and thinks it would break the first president's heart to see his nation breaking apart), while Willie explains key points and Lindsey responses to what she sees and hears. I was wondering why Harness picked Willie to be the guide rather than Tad, seeing as how the former died in 1862 and the latter did not die until 1871. But there is a point where Lindsey knows what is going to happen next and Willie warns her that things cannot be changed no matter how much they might want, and the conceit does off a chance for father and son to be reunited in the afterlife (it might be a bit much, but I can appreciate the sentiment).
The key thing is that at the end Lindsey is able to tell her dad that the Civil War was about a whole lot more than cannons and flags and stuff. The back of the book provides a look at some of the key figures both North and South, paying attention to not only presidents and generals, like Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant, but also key figures in the slavery issue, such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, and some notable women who were battlefield nurses, spies, and tragic figures. This provides a nice cross section of people with less then half of them being military figures. A two-page map shows the major campaigns and battlefield sets, while another page is devoted to the flags of the two sides, a chart explaining how the soldiers were organized, and some of the key firsts that made the Civil War the First Modern War. Finally, there is a Glossary of key terms from "Abolitionist" to "Zouave," and a short Bibliography and list of Recommended Reading surrounded by a Look Around the World in the Time of the Civil War.
Ultimately, I am not sure that "Ghosts of the Civil War" works as an introductory book for young readers, and that they really need to know a little something about the subject to get the most out of this interesting volume. Harness' goal is to make the people of the Civil War seem a bit more like real people, and to do this by filling the pages completely with artwork and information. If you start from scratch this onslaught of information and images could be a bit much, but once a young student understand the basics of the Civil War this book will expand their knowledge and be a lot more fun to read than a history textbook. Harness has written similar volumes, "Ghosts of the 20th Century" and "Ghosts of the White House," that take the same approach in presenting a wealth of information to her young readers.
The issues of the Civil War are handled fairly.
I'd recommend it for 6th graders though middle school.