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Across the Lines

Across the Lines

by Carolyn Reeder

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Twelve-year-old Edward thought of Simon as his friend and never imagined life without his companion and slave. But when the Union army invades Virginia and takes over Edward's family's plantation, Edward's family flees to nearby Petersburg, while Simon runs toward freedom. With terrific detail and historical facts woven throughout, the author crafts a story set


Twelve-year-old Edward thought of Simon as his friend and never imagined life without his companion and slave. But when the Union army invades Virginia and takes over Edward's family's plantation, Edward's family flees to nearby Petersburg, while Simon runs toward freedom. With terrific detail and historical facts woven throughout, the author crafts a story set during the actual siege at Petersburg, complete with battle scenes, descriptions of army life on both sides of the war, and what life was like, told from the point of view of two young boys—one white and one black.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Samantha Hunt
Twelve-year-old Edward and Simon are friends. They have always been friends, but when Union soldiers land at City Point, Virginia, Edward and his family are forced to flee to relatives in nearby Petersburg. For Simon, a slave, this is his chance to slip away from the plantation to freedom. The ensuing story of the last year of the Civil War is told alternatively from Edward's and Simon's point of view. Edward feels displaced, living in his uncle's house like a poor relation. He fears his family's presence increases the privation his aunt and cousins are already suffering. He is "counting on the war being over long before he [is] old enough to be a soldier." He cannot imagine volunteering for hardship and danger as his father has done and his brother is impatient to do; he wonders if he is a coward. Simon, on the other hand, attaches himself to the Union Army, working at a variety of jobs to earn his keep. For the first time in his life, he is alone and lonely, struggling to make his own choices and decisions. Freedom, he quickly learns, is not going to be easy; he even wonders if it will be worth the struggle. He and other liberated blacks are referred to as "contraband," and even the black Union soldiers are not treated equally with the whites. Both boys miss the friendship they once shared, but they are gradually forced to realize that not only their individual lives, but their entire world, has changed, and they will never be together again. This is not a book for the reader who wants graphic descriptions of bloody battles. The military history is minimal; even the infamous Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg is sketchily drawn. The focus of this book is social history, the effect of the war, and its many hardships on the populace, both civilian and military. The author does an excellent job of presenting a large cross-section of differing perspectives through Edward and Simon: Edward's father volunteers out of personal commitment to a cause, his uncle from a somewhat reluctant sense of duty. Edward's aunt opposed secession and considers the war a tragic waste, whereas his mother, in the finest Southern tradition, thinks it glorious and honorable. Jocasta, his aunt's servant and a free black, remains with the family out of personal loyalty; the slaves from Riverview, the family's plantation, almost without exception, run away. Black, white, male, female, rich, poor, military, and civilian-all are represented here, giving the YA readers at least some notion of how varied and complex the issues and views of the day were. Recommend to YAs who have appreciated Irene Hunt's classic Across Five Aprils (Berkley, 1987) or Paul Fleischman's Bull Run (HarperCrest, 1993). This one will give them another look at the faces and hearts of this most American of wars. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The Civil War and the siege of Petersburg are the backdrop for this story of two boys. Edward, the privileged son of a plantation owner, considers Simon, a slave, as his friend. The boys truly complement each other. When war arrives, Simon escapes and learns how hard it is to be free. Edward and his family flee to Petersburg where he struggles to overcome his fears-some real and others due to his sensitive and introspective nature. Both boys overcome personal and physical hardships and both become "freemen." It's a compelling account, told alternately by Simon and Edward with a strong message of the senselessness and horrors of war.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Carolyn Reeder sets her story in 1864 as twelve-year-old Edward prepares to leave his plantation home when war encroaches. He looks everywhere for Simon, his servant and his best friend. Simon, however, chooses to stay missing because he's determined to find freedom. Reeder's skillful alternating chapters tell of Edward's search for self, Simon's search for belonging, and the turmoil of besieged Petersburg. Reeder shows her talent for research and for creating characters who make us care.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9A novel about the Civil War that takes place from May 1864, to May 1865. The story has as much introspection as action as the author shows the coming of age of two childhood companions, one black, one white. Edward (about 12), his mother, younger sister, and older brother abandon their plantation home as Union soldiers advance. They are taken in by Edward's aunt in Petersburg, a town approximately 25 miles from the Confederate capital. Edward's manservant and constant companion, Simon, has run off to taste freedom. Told alternately in Edward and Simon's voices, the story relates both of their experiences during the war. Freedom, choice, and self-respect are constant themes as are the needs and demands of friendship. The novel gets off to a slow start but picks up each time Reeder ties the action to real events. Food and paper shortages are capably described and become more than plot devices; they provide psychological clues to Edward's growing sense of self. Historically, Petersburg was significant because of its railroad lines and munitions storage. Reeder uses the setting to focus attention on the way one family endures the hardships of war. Along the way she draws fine characters, including Aunt Charlotte, a strong, independent woman who understands war as the power of evil. A solid piece of historical fiction.Harriett Fargnoli, Great Neck Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Reeder (Shades of Gray, 1990, etc.) returns to the era of the Civil War for this powerful, moving story of friendship, loss, and courage.

In May 1864 the Union forces are massing along the Appomattox in preparation for the siege of the supposedly impregnable Petersburg, and Edward's family must flee their plantation, Riverview, to stay with a relative. In the confusion, Edward's slave and best friend, Simon, runs off to freedom. Too young to join the Union Army, he finds work doing odd jobs for the Yankees. He misses Edward, but the sight of the black Union troops, who show incredible courage in the opening battles of the siege, make him aware that there is no turning back for him. Edward misses Simon, too, and chafes at life under siege, with the constant shelling and his inability to help in the war effort. For both boys, war becomes a crucible: Simon struggles to find a place and true freedom with the Union forces; Edward watches with envy as his arrogant older brother goes off to join the Rebel forces, only to fall ill with a terrible fever that can only be brought down by doses of quinine—available behind enemy lines in the Union hospital. There are no easy answers in this clear-eyed evocation of the cruelty and dangers of a tragic war; Reeder casts problem after problem before her young protagonists, and allows them the strength and character to fend for themselves on the way to finding solutions.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.44(d)
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Carolyn Reeder, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Shades of Gray (Simon & Schuster), is an avid history buff with a longtime interest in the Civil War. Her other historical novels for young people include Across the Lines, Grandpa's Mountain, Moonshiner's Son, and Captain Kate.

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