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Children's LiteratureThis exciting tale, based on a true story, will be popular with beginning readers. Billy lives on a farm near Gettysburg when the northern and southern armies converge for the famous battle. Rebel soldiers raid Billy's farm for food and take everything, and one night a young, scared Confederate deserter knocks on their door and begs for shelter. Mama leaves to doctor Union troops, and Billy and the young rebel, whom they call Cousin, must cope alone. In an act of courage, Cousin saves Billy from an angry rebel soldier as the Confederates retreat. Soft watercolors in browns and umber evoke the heat of that long-ago July battlefield, and charming, old fashioned line drawings effectively convey the different emotions as tensions run high. Simple sentences against an uncluttered background make easy reading for newly minted readers, and a nice mixture of long and short paragraphs with frequent chapter headings help break up the text. An author's note at the end explains the source for the story. A clear simple map in the front helps to establish the geographical setting. This heartwarming tale with themes of friendship and kindness helps define the Civil War in a personal context, and is a good introduction to this time period for young children. Part of the "Ready-to-read" series 2005, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Ages 6 to 9.