This Newbery honor book from 1959 is a short (~150 pages) novel about the Civil War and about a young boy who lives in the Tennessee hills (near where my family lives!) during that time. Chris is staunchly supportive of the Rebels, not because he supports slavery (his family is poor and doesn’t own any slaves), but because the Feds took a deer skin jacket that he worked on for weeks, and because the soldiers also took his family’s food, leaving them hungry for the winter to come. When he finds out his brother Jethro has joined up with the Federal army, Chris is destitute. His family is persecuted by the local people because of their “traitorous” family member, Jethro, so Chris decides to do whatever it takes to prove that he is a Rebel, through and through. But when his plan goes awry, Chris finds himself among the Federal soldiers–and discovers they might not all be so bad.
It’s a somewhat simplistic story: a young boy hates the Northern army but soon discovers that most of them are just like him and his family–hungry, cold, and wanting to go home and stop all this fighting. But it works. This book captures the feeling of being a kid, old enough to form strong opinions, but too young to see others’ perspectives. The Southern accent portrayed in the dialogue is also spot on–and I usually hate written accents! It’s not my favorite Newbery book, but it is certainly enjoyable. Take a look if you or your kids are into Civil War-era literature.
Rating: Good but Forgettable