Letters from Vinnie

Letters from Vinnie

4.5 2
by Maureen Sappey

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A perceptive, thoughtful teenager lives through the events of America’s Civil War as she develops her own remarkable career in this NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Vinnie Ream was a real person who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the U.S. Capitol today.


A perceptive, thoughtful teenager lives through the events of America’s Civil War as she develops her own remarkable career in this NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Vinnie Ream was a real person who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the U.S. Capitol today.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sappey's (the Young American series) epistolary novel stars a little-known heroine of the Civil War, Vinnie Ream. Based on the artist who sculpted a famous statue of President Lincoln, the story opens as 13-year-old Vinnie writes to her fictive friend Regina just before the war begins in 1861 and concludes in 1869 during Johnson's impeachment proceedings. The author vividly paints the contrast in the capital where life goes on as usual amidst the war and destruction; especially convincing is her account of a picnic at Bull Run where battle breaks out unexpectedly. She skillfully uses major and minor characters to illustrate the most painful effects of the war: division between families (Vinnie's brother defies their Unionist family to fight for the Confederacy) and dashed dreams (a 16-year-old bugler, accepted into the Peabody Conservatory before the war, loses both hands). However, the letters themselves unfortunately often read more like bland diary entries; Regina remains undefined and seems more like a device for delivering information ("Regina, I am pleased you wish to learn more about sculpting a bust" than a friend. And the protagonist's sometimes passive recounting of dramatic events undercuts their impact. While readers' interest in Vinnie Ream and the Civil War in general may be awakened by the novel, the epilogue and a letter from the author describe an extraordinary woman who is not entirely captured in these pages. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Vinnie Ream was a young female sculptress of the Civil War era who made her reputation by winning the commission of Congress to create a lifesize statue of Abraham Lincoln after his untimely death. Sappéy has chosen to tell her heroine's story through Vinnie's correspondence to a fictional friend. In letters ranging from 1861 through 1869, the entire course of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction is discussed as Vinnie's family moves from Arkansas to the thick of events in Washington City. The usual ground is covered, but Vinnie and the book finally come into their own voice as Ream begins her artistic career. Sappéy's description of the artist's studio, her working methods, and Ream's involvement in President Andrew Johnson's Impeachment Trial become fascinating. 1999, Front Street, Ages 10 to 14, $16.95. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
This fictionalized look at the life of sculptress Vinnie Ream covers her teenage years during the Civil War. In 1861, thirteenyearold Vinnie and her family leave Arkansas for Washington, D.C., where she sees the impact of the war on the soldiers and the civilian population. Vinnie entertains wounded soldiers with her music, her brother joins the Confederate Army and suffers from the lack of clothing and food, and her sister, attending a luncheon near the fighting at Bull Run, gets caught among the defeated soldiers leaving the battle. Vinnie turns her artistic talents to sculpting and tries to capture the essence of President Lincoln. After the assassination, she wins a government commission to sculpt a lifesize statue of Lincoln for the Capitol Rotunda. She also experiences the love, tragedy, and disappointment of several suitors and the jealousy of a newspaper writer. Using letters from Vinnie to her friend Regina, the book is similar to the works in the Dear America series from Scholastic. The real Vinnie is used as both an observer of the times and an active participant. By mixing actual and fictional characters, much historical information is provided. Occasionally the language is contrived, with overuse of phrases such as "Oh, Regina" and hearts "swollen with fear." However, the courage, talents, and emotions that Vinnie exhibits result in a nicely developed and admirable character study. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1999, Front Street, Ages 12 to 15, 248p, $16.95. Reviewer: Susan H. Levine
Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Welcome historical fiction about the sculptress of the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. Vinnie Ream tells her story of living in Washington, DC, through letters to her friend, Regina, beginning when she is 13 in 1861 and ending in 1869. While the letters and the friend are fictionalized, the events and people mentioned are real. Vinnie is a keen observer of her surroundings and of the people she meets. Personable, artistic, skilled, and lucky are words that describe her. Her letters are filled with her feelings of devotion to President Lincoln; anxiety caused by her brother's decision to fight for the Confederacy; love for her parents and sister; and typical teenage worries about suitors, fashion, etc. Through her eyes, readers gain knowledge of the Civil War, Lincoln, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sappéy gracefully blends fact and fiction in her chronicle of Vinnie Ream, the first sculptress to win a government commission and the creator of the statue of Abraham Lincoln that graces the Capitol building. Using the fictional device of letters to a friend, Sappéy tells Vinnie's story in textured language, interweaving historical and personal details about her life as she grows from a passionate but raw adolescent to an accomplished lady in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War and its aftermath. Vinnie begins to study sculpture at 16, and takes to it immediately, describing the clay as "bending and moving under my fingers as though it understood my intention and desired to please my creative touch." Although Sappéy has chosen a little-mined historical subject, Vinnie may be too good—in the old-fashioned sense—to be believable to readers. Her constant references to her heart (it knows what her lips will not speak, pounds in disappointment, lifts like a kite on the wind, words are torn from it, she keeps deep secrets in it, closets an old beau there, etc.) become grating, especially given the book's stately pace. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
1120L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

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Meet the Author

Maureen Stack Sappey has lived in many parts of the world, including Ireland, where she taught herself to write fiction. After returning to the U.S., Ms. Sappey earned her master's degree in fine arts, developed a passion for historical fiction, and is now an acclaimed author in the genre. She lives with her family in Chestertown, Maryland.

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Letters from Vinnie 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Letters from Vinnie was, for me, a learning experience. In this book Vinnie writes letters to her best friend. Through these letters we see Vinnies heart and dreams. And while Vinnie's dreams were unique, there was something even more unique about Vinnie. She had the courage to see her dreams through, despite what others said about her. I recommend Letters from Vinnie. Read it, enjoy it, be inspired. And dare to dream.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though 'Letters From Vinnie' is a Young Adult selection, our book club chose it as our latest selection. I was pleasantly surprised at what I learned (I had never heard of Vinnie Ream) and how the author captured my interest through Vinnie's letters to Regina. It's a charming and educational read. I'm now motivated to go to the library to learn more about Vinnie and her famous sculpture.