Diary of a Drummer Boy

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Imagining what a journal kept by a Civil War drummer boy might sound like, Brill recreates the three-year participation of the real Orion Howe, who came from Waukegan, Illinois, to drum. Howe participated in the battle of Shiloh, dug a fair number of ditches, drummed, and later distinguished himself by struggling toward General Sherman to ask that smaller-caliber bullets be sent to the front line where the large bullets were jamming the men's dirty-barreled muskets. As a first-person account, the book involves readers in the plight and emotion of the foot soldier while keeping the horror at a slight and appropriate distance. A bibliography, an excellent choice of children's books about the Civil War, an afterword, and an 1864 poem extolling Orion's courageous struggle end this work. For another look at a modern boy in a Civil War encampment, see Susan Sinnott's Charley Waters Goes to Gettysburg (Millbrook, 2000). 1998, Millbrook Press, Ages 8 to 12, $22.90 and $8.95. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5This imagined journal of Orion Howe, a real boy who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery during the Civil War, has the tone of nonfiction. The entries sound like letters a young boy of this time period would write to a friend. Before the war starts, Orion lives on an Illinois farm with his family. The Howes are imbued with faith in President Lincoln as well as a hatred of slavery. Orion and his brother are both drummers and often play them with their father at church picnics. Then, in April of 1861, the boys begin drumming at war meetings. In his journal Orion writes, "It seemed to me that the music is what pushed the men to sign up to fight." In November of that year, he enlists, and the rest of the entries are about his experiences in the war. This book is written from an unabashedly Union perspective. Orion admits that "soldiering in the South is not fun," but his words and actions march forward with a stoic sense of duty. Garland's full-page illustrations are simply stunning. They beautifully enhance the straightforward yet descriptive text. This picture book is perfect for students too young for more graphic depictions of the Civil War such as Jim Murphy's The Boys' War (Clarion, 1990).Jackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A picture book for older readers, based on fact and done in diary form, tells the story of Orion Howe, a 12-year-old Civil War drummer boy who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and who was the subject of an ode in the Atlantic Monthly, reprinted at the back. Following his father and younger brother, Lyston, into service, Orion marches around the country, endures hardship and privation, sees action several times, and experiences the horrors of war. At Vicksburg he is wounded while getting ammunition, but completes his task before going to the field hospital. He is sent home, but returns and re-enlists when he heals. A rather flat, carefully colorless narration allows the power of the story to come through without distraction. Orion's diary entries reveal aspects of the war without wallowing in gore; in addition to the battles, he effectively conveys the tedium, mud, disease, hunger, and fear that accompany the soldiers. Abetted by Garland's startling paintings, which depict the faces in a photo-realistic fashion but allow other details in the scenes to remain as sketchy as memory, Brill's book succeeds as fiction, and will have many uses in the history classroom. (bibliography, further reading) (Nonfiction. 9-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761313885
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Series: I Know America Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 9 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.77 (w) x 10.02 (h) x 0.14 (d)

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