KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Ernst has written a realistic, gritty novel about the Civil War, concentrating not on battles but on civilians who lose everything because of the war. It all starts when Hannah's father decides to join the Yankees to fight, leaving behind his struggling family to fend for themselves on their little farm in the Cumberland mountains. Life is hard enough for them, but when Hannah's mother dies, all the responsibility falls on 15-year-old Hannah. Her younger brother and little sister try to help, but they are just too young. Neighbors offer to take them in, but they would be separated, so Hannah decides they will walk to Nashville where an aunt lives, a journey of many weeks. In their little community and in the countryside they pass through, the divisions between those loyal to the Union and those who are on the Confederate side are catastrophic. Women and children are the main victims, left behind with few resources, vulnerable to marauding soldiers. Hannah does the best she can, and readers will appreciate the realistic squabbling among the siblings. When they get to Nashville, nothing is what they hoped to find. They do meet up with the family who once lived near their farm. Ben was Hannah's best friend before his family became Confederate sympathizers; now they are enemies, but in their desperation, they resolve to return to the land they left behind. Readers will feel Hannah's resolve, and also her confusion. We understand when she lashes out unfairly at her brother and sister. The deprivation and suffering are painful. Having read Ernst's outstanding story, we have an idea of how wars ruin people's lives, even the noncombatants' lives. Good supplementary reading for Civil Warstudies.
VOYA - Stacey Hayman
Hannah, thirteen, her younger brother Jasper, and five-year-old twins Mary and Maude are orphaned soon after the start of the Civil War. Their father is killed fighting for the Union, and their mother dies during a Bushwhacker strike on their farm in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee. Too young to be left on their own, the siblings are divided among neighboring families. Hannah chooses instead to take her family to Nashville, where together they will look for their Aunt Ellen, who will surely raise them. Traveling two hundred miles on dangerous roads, surviving crowded refugee camps, and making amends with Confederate neighbors provide plenty of drama and adventure to keep up the pace of the story. The cover art is not going to help this book find the right reader. It looks as if there should be a sappy, possibly religious love story waiting to be read inside. Ernst creates a decent, well-researched historical novel with the main character showing great strength and human flaws. There is a spark of interest between Hannah and the neighbor boy, but the struggle of young people to survive in the harshest of times kept this reader turning the pages. The book is a good choice for older students needing a historical novel to fulfill a reading assignment or for younger teens looking for something interesting to read.
Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
When Hannah Cameron's parents both die as a result of the War between the States, she is left with a poor homestead and three siblings, which well-meaning neighbors plan to separate and take in as "charity cases." Hannah stalls for time, gathers her small family, and heads toward the unknown distance and uncertain direction to Nashville, and the safety of her mother's sister. Along the route, and after reaching the city, Hannah and her small family face almost unbearable odds, and nearly everyone they ask for help seems to have a hardened heart. Stones both common and precious, stones used for building or throwing metaphorically, express the lives of the Camerons. Stories, songs, and oft-repeated sayings of both their mother and father encourage the children when confusing circumstances almost overwhelm them. Memories include their mother calling, "Rise and face the day," as well as their father's (seemingly forgotten by him), "Camerons take care of their own." Disappointment, loss, tragedy, maturity, and finally resolution engage the reader's emotions in this page-turning coming-of-age story. Lessons of endurance, survival, and fierce family love linger long after the story is completed.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Hannah, 15, her younger brother, and her twin sisters are orphaned when their father dies in fighting for the Union and their mother has a fatal heart attack when bushwhackers assault their home. They leave East Tennessee for Nashville to be with their only relative. When they arrive, they discover that their aunt has died. Homeless but not hopeless, Hannah struggles to keep them alive, and they eventually end up at a refugee camp set up by the Union forces. An army doctor and his wife are quite taken with the twins and offer to adopt them. Hannah wants only to return to their farm but Jasper likes his job with the railroad and wants to make it his life's work. Hannah is torn between her promise to her mother to keep the family together and to do what is best for her siblings. The idea for the book was based on a reenactment of civilian refugee camp life sponsored by the Ladies' Soldiers' Friends Society. However, the value of the story lies not in its historical content but in the description of the mixed emotions and suffering of friends and neighbors who suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict, the desperation of civilians in wartime, and the unending attempt of a teen to uphold a promise. The book would make for interesting discussions about authority, family bonds, and selflessness.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Before he leaves to join the Union army, Hannah Cameron's father tells her, "You may look like a girl, but I know you too well. You're stubborn as a mule. You'll help see things through." And 15-year-old Hattie does, even after Pa's death in the war, her mother's death after an attack by bushwhackers and her journey with her siblings to Nashville, now controlled by the Yankees. Hard times continue in Nashville, a city of congested streets, stinking alleys and refugee camps overcrowded with hollow-eyed women and starving children. Ernst's memorable tale demonstrates in vivid detail how wars affect women and children, and Hattie's stubbornness does indeed help to keep her family together and her dream of returning to Cumberland Mountain alive. The prose is lively, the action dramatic. Historical details never overwhelm the story, and readers will be hooked from the start. (Fiction. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
I patted the mule. Until Jasper grew big enough to help, I’d tended Star. “It’s a fit chore for you, Hannah,” Papa had said more than once. “You’re as stubborn as the mule.” But he always smiled when he said it.
“Are you up to the trip, Star?” I whispered. Poor girl. Her sides were furrowed as a new-plowed field. “You can get us to Nashville, can’t you?” I scratched her between the ears, then took stock. Jasper’d come back with the bucket. The cart was packed. Mary and Maude stood waiting. Everything was ready.
My chest began to ache. “I forgot something,” I said.
Jasper snorted. “Hannah – ”
“Just hush up and wait!”
Back inside I touched the marks my fingers had made in the clay and straw chinked between the logs when we’d had to repair damage done by mice and bees and rain. I set Mama’s rocking chair to motion and so I could hear it creak. I trailed my hand over the oak table Papa had hewn, and toed the crack between the puncheons where Jasper always dropped his string beans through for the chickens. Jasper didn’t much care for string beans.
“I can’t protect the hearth, Mama,” I whispered. I tried to pry the flowered china piece free of the chimney, but it stuck fast. I polished it with my apron instead.
Then my gaze lit on the family Bible, kept on its own little table near the fireplace. Like the wedding ring, it came across the ocean with my papa’s family many years before. The huge book had a tooled-leather cover that was surely the envy of Preacher Peabody. Inside were special pages where generations of Camerons had written down births and weddings and deaths. That faded, spidery writing was all that was left of their lives. The Bible rested on a square scrap of plaid wool, dark green and blue with thin yellow stripes, which had come across the ocean with Mama’s parents.
I carried the Bible and the tartan cloth outside, wrapped them in a quilt, and stowed in the cart. “Now we’re ready,” I said, putting a hand on Star to steady myself.
“Hannah?” Jasper chewed his lip. “What happens if we can’t find Aunt Ellen in Nashville?”
“Well…we’ll come back here. We can always go to the neighbors if need truly be.”
“But what will happen here?”
I drew a deep breath. “Nothing, I hope. We own this land, legal. There are papers in Knoxville to prove it. When the war’s over we’ll come back and start again.”
I took a last look around. The ash hopper beside the big boiling kettle was full, waiting for Mama to fire up a batch of laundry. The big iron hoisting hook still hung in the walnut tree by the pig pen, waiting for Papa to haul up a butchered pig to dress out. Corn was coming up in the field and the garden needed tending and a pile of ginseng waited on the porch. Two fresh ‘coon skins were nailed on the front wall to dry.
And Mama’s grave still fresh and bare.
I finally pried my gaze away and planted myself in the road. I folded my arms, staring west. “You look just like Pa,” Jasper said.
That shored me up some. “I’ll get us to Nashville,” I promised. “Let’s get going.”