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A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero

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Overview

Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Among her many adventures, she was a nurse on the battlefield and a spy for the Union Army, and was captured by (and escaped from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in ...

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A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero

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Overview

Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Among her many adventures, she was a nurse on the battlefield and a spy for the Union Army, and was captured by (and escaped from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.

Using historical materials to build the foundation of the story, Moss has crafted a captivating novel for the YA audience. The book includes a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names, and a detailed note on sources.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Moss returns to the subject of her 2011 picture book Nurse, Soldier, Spy with a captivating piece of YA historical fiction based on the daring life of Civil War heroine Sarah Emma Edmonds. Sarah is raised on a farm by her abusive father, and she runs away before he can marry her off. Out of necessity, Sarah assumes the identity of a man, Frank Thompson, working as a traveling book salesman, among other odd jobs. At 19, she volunteers for the Union Army of the Potomac, with the aim of gaining the power and independence she's been denied. Sarah is grateful for the camaraderie and sense of purpose the army provides her, but she is surrounded by suffering and death. Her duties as a nurse, soldier, mail carrier, spy, and writer require her to don many isolating masks and to endure a long-unrequited love. Writing in a sharp-witted, picaresque style, Moss gives Sarah a candid and perceptive voice. Historical materials including letters, photographs, and a timeline further enrich an epic as adept at depicting Civil War horrors as it is at exploring the politics of gender. Ages 12–up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)
VOYA - Mark Letcher
After escaping from an abusive home and disguising herself as a young man, Sarah Edmonds works as a successful bookseller named Frank Thompson, but (s)he is compelled to enlist in the Union Army as the Civil War begins. Frank begins his service as a field nurse but also handles duties as a mail carrier, orderly, and even a spy behind Confederate lines. Frank’s bravery earns him the respect of his peers and superiors, who are unaware that the soldier they send into certain danger is really a woman. This novel draws on Edmonds’s own best-selling memoir, offering a detailed account of key battles in the war’s first several years, with harrowing and graphic battlefield scenes. Frank’s heroic activities alternate with his constant vigilance against being discovered among his fellow soldiers; Moss portrays how Frank was able to hide his identity through stealth and sheer luck, with only one man knowing the truth. Moss also includes an epilogue depicting Frank’s reunion with his company after the war’s conclusion, along with archival photographs, biographies, a time line, and additional resources. One of the novel’s major strengths--its well-researched detail--causes it to stall occasionally as Frank’s regiment moves from battle to battle, with stretches of inactivity between the skirmishes. While this pacing may accurately reflect actual warfare, it can make for a slow narrative. But when the action picks up, the story is riveting, and Moss provides an important historical perspective that would otherwise be unknown to many readers. This is a compelling read, one that should appeal to history and adventure fans. Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—This novel is based on the life of a real woman who escapes her abusive childhood home and an arranged marriage. Given the time in history, Sarah's options are limited. She reinvents herself as "Frank Thompson" and eventually enlists in the Union Army. She narrates her experiences as a soldier, nurse, courier, and spy, and describes the challenges of keeping up her masquerade. Despite the nearly constant terror of living as a soldier, Sarah is fulfilled by contributing to the war effort and experiencing her own power, even if it means she must suppress her feelings toward Jerome, a fellow nurse. The fine points of how she is able to successfully hide her body for years in tight quarters and the authentic dialogue are convincing. Horrific realities of war are not glossed over: amputations, disease, carnage, and pain are described in gritty, but never gratuitous, detail. Period photographs, a Civil War time line, and biographical information about officers further immerse readers in this memorable novel. Whether a valiant soldier or angel of mercy, Sarah is a brave and loyal historical figure, well deserving of readers' attention.Sherry J. Mills, Hazelwood East High School, St. Louis, MO
Kirkus Reviews
A female Civil War soldier is brought alive for readers. Though 19 years old, Frank Thompson is rejected the first time he tries to join the Union Army: He looks too young. Three months later, the conscriptors aren't so picky, and Frank signs on as a "nurse," a mostly untrained orderly who pulls injured soldiers off battlefields, holds them down during amputations and writes to their loved ones if they die. With his stamina, determination and genuinely caring nature, Frank excels, and he is soon given riskier duties: first, postmaster, responsible for carrying mail to the front lines; second, spy, where Frank proves a master at disguise. And no wonder: Frank is a woman. Sarah Edmonds, Canadian by birth, first passed for a boy to escape her abusive father and an arranged marriage; after the war, she became the only female to receive a soldiers' pension. Moss' moving first-person narration, based largely on Edmonds' own autobiography and other first-person documents, shows Frank gradually finding in her war comrades the close-knit and loving family she never had, while becoming increasingly valued for her courage and compassion. Moss convincingly but never gratuitously portrays the gore, horror and boredom of war. An intimate look at a soldier's life from a compelling, historical perspective. (author's note, thumbnail biographies, timeline, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419704277
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 983,549
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Marissa Moss has written and illustrated many books for children, including the popular Amelia’s Notebook series, the picture book Nurse, Soldier, Spy, and a middle-grade novel, The Pharaoh’s Secret. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    10+

    Great but there is some romance and talk about private areas.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    Sarah

    Sometimes when I read this I think sarah is a man she is so brave and courages

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 12, 2013

    Did you know that there were over 400 women who are known to hav

    Did you know that there were over 400 women who are known to have dressed as men and fought during the U. S. Civil War? One of them was nineteen-year-old Sarah Emma Edmonds, a native of New Brunswick, Canada, who at age sixteen ran away from a drunken father who abused her and a forced marriage to a repulsive neighbor. She dressed as a young man named Frank Thompson, came to Hartford, CN, and became a traveling bookseller for a publishing company. The firm sent Frank west, and in Flint, MI, he decided to join the Union Army of the Potomac, becoming a soldier, nurse, postmaster, general’s orderly, and spy, and seeing action in the battles of First and Second Bull Run, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Seven Days, and Fredericksburg. Frank manages to hide his secret for a long time, but when he becomes deathly ill due to swamp fever, will he be found out?

    The story is told in an interesting way that is generally easy to read, and there are some genuinely humorous situations. Narrated by Sarah, the novel offers readers an in-depth look at the Civil War with a reasonably good job describing what it was like to be a soldier in battle at that time. Historical materials are used to build the foundation of the story. drawing heavily from Sarah’s own memoir and other first-person documents, so there is a great deal of detail about ordinary life in the military, plus much coverage of fighting and action, although the author did fabricate a major event at the end of the book on the basis that it "seemed like something that should have happened, and the advantage of fiction is that you can choose the shape of the story." For the budding historian, the book includes a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names, and a detailed note on sources. Those who are a bit on the sensitive side should be aware that some descriptions of the battle scenes, though perhaps not overly gratuitous, can be rather detailed and blunt.

    To me, however, what stood out most in a book supposedly intended for young people is the bad language and sexual references. Besides several common euphemisms, the “d” and “h” words, in various forms and phrases (including “God***mit”), along with the name of God as an interjection, are used frequently. There are references to soldiers’ “pi**ing,” someone is called a “horse’s a**,” the terms “bi*ch” and “ba*t*rd” are found, and Sarah talks about her monthlies and bloody menstrual cloths. Also discussions occur about the size of “male anatomy” and the fact that Frank’s is “less than ample.” The vulgar slang word “pecker” even appears in this regard. I understand that some modern authors of young adult books feel that it is necessary to include these kinds of things to be “realistic.” And I suspect that some parents may not mind them, but others like me feel that they are totally unnecessary or will at least want to know about them ahead of time, especially in a book that is said to be for ages twelve and up. If you were the father of an innocent twelve-year-old girl, how would you feel if she is reading the book, comes up to you, and out of the blue asks, “Dad, what’s a pecker?” This is why I recommend it for no one under age sixteen. Finally, I was struck by someone else’s personal reaction about how sad it was that Frank's way of proving his masculinity was to tell dirty stories and spit and scratch and “break wind” (i.e., pass gas).

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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