School Library JournalGr 4-8-The Civil War is raging and Mike Kelly, 12, who came to the Midwest on an orphan train, runs away from home with his friend Todd to join the Union Army. As musicians in the Second Kansas Infantry, they make a long and difficult march into Missouri, where they encounter General McCulloch's Missouri Guard at the arduous Battle of Wilson's Creek. Mike is wounded and left for dead; Todd is brutally killed. Mike looks on in agony while a man takes an heirloom pocket watch from his friend's body-he'd promised Todd he'd return it to his sister if anything ever happened to him. He is rescued by a Confederate soldier-someone he'd known on the orphan train-and eventually rejoins his regiment and has several adventures and close calls with Confederate sympathizers along the way. His overriding mission, however, is to retrieve Todd's watch. Nixon writes energetically and maintains an aura of adventure and danger. She clearly portrays the horrors of war, and the particular agony of this war. Her characters are finely drawn and multifaceted, the plot is lively, and the details are well chosen. This is history come to life.-Joyce Adams Burner, formerly at Spring Hill Middle School, KS
Chris ShermanFans of the Orphan Train Quartet will be delighted that Nixon is continuing the story of the Kelly family in a new series, the Orphan Train Adventures. In 1861, 12-year-old Mike Kelly and his friend Todd Blakely run away and join the Second Kansas Infantry. They're too young to fight, but they're old enough to be drummers and are convinced the Union forces need them. Their first engagement, the Battle of Wilson's Creek, is a bloody rout. Todd is fatally wounded, and Mike is left for dead. Rescued by a rebel soldier who's a friend from the Orphan Train, Mike is tended by a sympathetic family. Before he can rejoin his unit, however, he must make his way back through enemy territory and fulfill a promise made to Todd. Nixon's story is an action-packed, realistic adventure. Through Mike's eyes, readers view the alternating boredom and sheer terror of war, the effects of war on civilians, and the factors that divided families as well as the country. There's also a tantalizing hint about what Kelly faces in the next adventure.
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