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Ballad of the Civil War

Ballad of the Civil War

4.2 4
by Mary Stolz

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A Brother's War

Tom Rigby didn't think that anything could ever come between him and his twin, Jack. But things begin to change when Tom learns that they are not allowed to play with their friend Aaron anymore because he's a slave. Tom is upset, but Jack doesn't seem to care. All Jack cares about is playing soldier.
Eleven years later, when war breaks out,


A Brother's War

Tom Rigby didn't think that anything could ever come between him and his twin, Jack. But things begin to change when Tom learns that they are not allowed to play with their friend Aaron anymore because he's a slave. Tom is upset, but Jack doesn't seem to care. All Jack cares about is playing soldier.
Eleven years later, when war breaks out, Jack joins the Confederation army. But Tom can't bring himself to fight for a cause he doesn't believe in — slavery. So Tom rides north to join the Union army — even though he knows he may one day have to face his brother on the battlefield.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Carol Collins
Based upon an actual Civil War ballad, this prose tale tells the story of twin boys who exchange the wooden horses of childhood for the real horses of war. Unlike the ballad, however, this story chronicles the growing disparity of the boys as Tom becomes disenchanted with slavery while Jack sticks to his Virginia-bred beliefs. Dialogue between Tom and Uncle Roger, the butler, touchingly dramatizes the hard lessons the South holds for Uppity Negroes and whites who challenge the old ways. When Jack joins the Confederate army, he is disgusted to find Tom leaving to join the Union army. All is recounted in a kind of flashback, as Tom, now a lieutenant, rides through a bloody battlefield toward camp. As he approaches a wounded Confederate soldier who reminds him of Jack, he reminisces on the past life with a lost brother. The shadowy black and white drawings lend an eerie, foreboding and mythic quality to this story of a brothers' war. A child is sure to be caught up in this dramatic, thought-provoking tale. 1998 (orig.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Inspired by an old Civil War song, Stolz's easy reader is really about the causes of the war, rather than the conflict itself. In terms youngsters can understand, she sets forth a small morality tale about southern twin brothers-one who learns early to feel for the humanity of the slaves his father keeps, and the other who closes his eyes and opts for the plantation system. The illustrations by Martinez are superior-the best of them reminiscent of Lynd Ward's classic work in the fifties.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7From the poignant words of a Civil War ballad, Stolz has fashioned a short yet moving tale of twin boys who grow up on a Virginia plantation and, as young men, choose opposing sides in the war. On their ninth birthday, Tom decries the banishment of Aaron, a young slave who has been their constant companion, to the fields because the interracial friendship is deemed no longer appropriate. Jack, caught up in the day's festivities, quickly forgets the boy who once saved his life. He dreams of the day when he can ride into battle on a real horse, instead of on the hobbyhorses that the twins have received as birthday presents. When Jack's is broken, kindhearted Tom makes room on his saying, "He'll go just as well with two." Ten years later, Jack wears a Confederate uniform while Tom makes his solitary way to join the Union Army. On his 21st birthday and now a lieutenant, he spies a wounded Confederate soldier by the roadside. He hopes that it is Jack, but it is not. Nevertheless, he treats the man like a brother, hoisting him onto his own horse, repeating the childhood refrain, "He'll go just as well with two." Though the plot is simple and the characters are uncomplicated, both are realistic and poignantly drawn. Fine-quality, pen-and-ink artwork appears throughout. A good choice for introducing historical fiction.Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Southgate, MI

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Trophy Chapter Book Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.12(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

0n The Morning Of August 24,1850, Tom Rigby woke early, then lay considering the day ahead. There was going to be a party on this, the ninth birthday of the Rigby twins.

That's us, Tom thought comfortably. Jack and me. We're nine years old.

It was to a big, big party. Their mother had been planning it for ages.

Friends and relations, neighbors from nearby plantations, would be arriving with their children, and with lots and lots of gifts. There would be, in Tom's opinion, too many gifts and too many grown-ups waiting to be thanked too much.

Still, he thought, a party is a party and maybe it'll be fun.

He yawned, smiled, looked over at Jack, sound asleep, gently snoring.

"Jack!" he yelled. "Wake up, wake up! We're nine years old today!"

"Call me when we're twenty," mumbled Jack, pulling a pillow over his head.

Tom laughed, got washed and dressed, and bounded downstairs to the kitchen, where Roger, the butler, was polishing silver and Tulitha, the cook, was kneading spongy bread dough.

"Morning, Uncle Roger," said Tom. "Morning, Tulitha! That smells wonderful!"

The cook continued her work in silence, but the butler smiled. "Morning to you, young Tom. Up betimes, as usual, I see."

"Jack's asleep. He won't be nine years old for the first time in his life ever again. But he says we're to call him when we're twenty."

"Can't wait to be all grown up and his own man, our Jack."

Tom shrugged."Far's I'm concerned, I'm my own man now. Where's Aaron?"

"Down to the quarter."

"When'll he be back?"

"Won't be back."

Tom scowled. "Uncle Roger, quit funning. I don't like that."

"Not funnin', Tom. Aaron's been sent to the quarter. For good and all."

"What are you talking about? This's the birthday party day. Why's Aaron down there stead of up here?"

"Tom, don't devil me. The plain fact, no way 'round it, is that Aaron's stayin' in the quarter from now on."

Tom stamped his foot. "That's crazy!"

"Call it anyway you wants, its a settled matter."

"No, it ain't! Isn't! I'm going right down there and fetch him back home."

"No, Tom! That's jes' what you won't do. You gonna leave well enough alone."

Why? It isn't well enough at all. It's awful. So why should I leave it alone)"

"Because. That's why," said Roger, polishing a heavy ladle harder, as if trying to erase its intricate design.

Tulitha plumped the mound of dough in a large bowl, covered it with a damp linen cloth, snorted a half laugh, and walked out to the back porch, letting the door slam behind her.

Tom jerked the butler's arm. "Because? What kind of answer is because?"

Roger drew a deep breath, put the ladle aside. At length he met Tom's eyes. "The because is because your daddy say it"s time that Aaron go back where he belong."

"He belongs here. He belongs with Jack and me. You know that. He's" Tom hesitated, then said, "He"s ours."

Aaron, five years older than the twins, had been given to them as a christening present by Colonel Galpin, their mother's brother. Raised along with them by Aunty Bess, Aaron' lived with her off the kitchen but spent most of his days with Jack and Tom, protecting and guiding them like an older brother, sharing their lives in all ways.

In almost all ways.

"A right bright darky, Mr. Rigby frequently said. "Watches out for the boys better'n any dog would."

"What's Aaron gone and done, Uncle Roger?" Tom asked. "Why's he belong down there all of a sudden like that?

"Your daddy say he's got uppity."

"Uppity?" Tom said. Uppity was a bad thing to be said of any slave. "How's he got uppity? He's just the same as always."

"Your daddy say he's too free with you boys, actin' like there's no difference between you and him --"

"What's wrong with that? We haven't ever made a difference between him and us. Why should we?"

"Sometimes, Tom," Roger said impatiently, "you act like you still four years old. You know your daddy don't hold with white boys bein' friends with coloreds."

"That's for -- for other people. Not Aaron."

"When your daddy say you 'n'Jack is too old now fer that kinda minglin', that's the end on it. Aaron's outgrowed his place with you."

"That's a dumb stupid crazy idea. He's practically our brother. I'm going to pull Jack out of bed right now, an' we'll go fetch him back."

"I tell you no!"

"And Isay yes." Tom started off.

"You want Aaron should be sold off?"

Tom turned back. "Sold off! Daddy would never do that. Never!"

Roger began counting spoons.

"He wouldn't . . . would he?" Tom asked miserably.

"You go 'gainst him in this, he might conclude to put Aaron in his pocket."

That slaves were sold -- putting money in their owners' pockets -- and that they were bought and traded, was something Tom knew. Uncle Roger himself had come to the household long ago, in payment of gambling debts owed to their father.

But never till now had Tom thought that plantation business applied to Aaron. Aaron wasn't just anybody. Aaron was ... he was theirs, his and Jack's.

"Uncle Roger!" he said triumphantly. "Aaron belongs to me and Jack. Daddy can't send him down to the quarter without even asking us. Can he?"

Can't he?"

"Well, I'm going to see Aunty Bess, that's what I'm going to do."

"Do that."

Roger picked up a tureen and examined it closely, as if Tom had already left.

A Ballad of the Civil War. Copyright © by Mary Stolz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Mary Stolz published her first book for young people in 1950 with Ursula Nordstrom and never looked back. Since then, she has written more than sixty books, been published in nearly thirty languages, and received two Newbery Honors (for Belling the Tiger and The Noonday Friends). The Bully of Barkham Street is the sequel to A Dog on Barkham Street (also available from HarperTrophy). Ms. Stolz lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Sergio Martinez was born and lives in Mexico City. He illustrated Weapons & Warfare by Milton Meltzer. His paintings have been exhibited in galleries around the world.

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Ballad of the Civil War 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book about Tom and Jack, who are twins at the time of the Civil War. Tom wants slaves to be free. Jack wants to have slaves. I didn't like that most of the book is when they are kids. I wanted more about the Civil War. I don't recommend this book if you are studying the Civil War. --Tobias
LSA More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful for 3rd graders to get a handle on how this war separated families, changed lives forever and tore at the heart of Americans. It gives both the north and the south perspectives and is done using children that my son could relate to. It is very touching and well written! LSA
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book of historical fiction about the Civil War for young readers opens in 1862 with 21-year-old Tom Rigby, a Union Cavalry officer, riding his horse through a storm back to camp. The sight of a wounded Confederate soldier by the side of the road, who might be his twin brother Jack, leads into the history of the brothers' relationship. The boys had grown up on a plantation in Virginia and were given a personal slave named Aaron, who was a few years older than they were, as a christening present. However, on their ninth birthday, Aaron, who had become their friend, was sent out to work in the fields for being too 'Uppity.' As a result of this experience, Tom became very troubled by all the problems that he saw with slavery, but Jack continued to support their rigid father's views. Eleven years later, when the Civil War erupted, Tom decided to join the Union army, while Jack enlisted in the Confederate army. The story then returns to that day when Tom finds the wounded Southern soldier who makes him think of Jack. What will Tom do? The author wrote that her grandfather and great-uncles fought for the North in the Civil War and brought back stories and songs with them that were passed down through the family to her. One of those ballads, about two little boys who played soldier and then grew up to fight on opposite sides during the Civil War, was sung so often that she remembered the words by heart, and it gave her the idea for the book. I really like historical fiction, and this is a wonderful chapter book for children that should help them to appreciate the fact that some people could not defend a person's right to own other people and to understand that sad era that ended in the 'brothers' war.' It has four chapters with a prologue and a closing author's note. The conversations that Tom has with the household slave 'Uncle Roger' provide some unique insight into the dilemma that slaves faced in the antebellum South. This is a great supplemental book for upper elementary students who are interested in or studying about the Civil War.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom and Jack Rigby recieved a slave named Aaron as a christening present. Tom thought the three would never be seperated. But he was wrong. On their ninth birthday, Aaron is sold to the quarter for getting too 'uppity'. Eleven years later, Tom leaves to fight for the Union. But, he wishes he could see his brother once more. Written by Mary Stolz, this book is very 'shocking but great'. I recommend you read this book.