We Played Marbles

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"We played marbles on our Papaw's farm,/ on the high dirt mounds of old Fort Craig/ left over from the Civil War,/ where hard, round Rebel bullets/ used to pass Union bullets in the air," says the narrator of this sophisticated anti-war book. Andreasen's evocative oil paintings convey a series of scenes of two boys playing while images of ghostly Civil War soldierslike double-exposed negativesare superimposed over the boys' activities. The narrator rides a pony where "Colonel Smith fell off his horse," and the boys make mud pies where "men in blue sat in the cold light/ in the morning river fog/ and ate a watchful, worried breakfast/ of old biscuits and warm water." When Papaw comes out to find the boys "play[ing] soldiers" with sticks, he pulls out a round Civil War bullet from his pocket and tells them he knows a better game: "So we played marbles," the narrator says. Andreasen's (Pioneer Girl) remarkable paintings are diffused with scumbled patches of light and haunted with blue-gray apparitions. But in spite of the success of the illustrations and an author's note at the end that explains the battle site, the poem's portentous and pontifical tone often seems as cloudy as the appearance of the mysterious soldiers. While the book may have some appeal to adults or be useful in classes for older children, young readers whose understanding of irony and history is limited will have difficulty comprehending quite literally just what exactly "old Fort Craig" is, why the soldiers even appear in the pictures and what the Grandfather's marble game signifies. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Shalini Murthy
Fort Craig Kentucky, the site of a famous Civil War battle, forms the backdrop for this book. Two boys enjoy their days on their grandfather's farm on the dirt mounds of Fort Craig, playing marbles, making mud-pies and running foot races. When the boys start playing soldiers, however, their grandfather-who knows better the consequences of battle and the history of what happened at Fort Craig-gently reminds the boys that playing marbles is a better game instead. The author's note at the end of the book provides the historical background to the story. This book would be a good addition to a classroom unit on the Civil War. As any teacher of Social Studies would attest, most students find history boring. A book such as this will serve to make history come alive. The illustrations in oil are hauntingly beautiful and Andreasen's technique of incorporating Civil War battle scenes in the contemporary illustrations create an interesting flashback effect that takes the reader back in time.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Andreasen's realistic yet poetic oil paintings show two modern boys playing games on the site of a Civil War battle, which is evoked in ghostly images in the clouds or reflected in the water. Their initially peaceful pastimes turn into "playing soldiers" until their grandfather tells them to stop, suggesting instead that they play marbles with an old round bullet. A note gives the factual basis for the simple story. Although lacking the tragic power of two other picture books that deal with the Civil War, George Ella Lyon's Cecil's Story (Orchard, 1991) and Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say (Philomel, 1994), this story has a nicely understated, elegiac feeling that the illustrations suit perfectly.Pam Gosner, formerly at Maplewood Memorial Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A narrative—strikingly similar to Eve Bunting's The Blue and the Gray (1996)—about two boys playing on a former Civil War battlefield; it is suffused with nostalgia and complete with a seed of truth, explained in an author's note. "We played marbles on our Papaw's farm, on the high dirt mounds of old Fort Craig left over from the Civil War." The two boys, perhaps seven and nine, refer to historical events such as a colonel falling from a horse, which Andreasen depicts dreamily in a cloud formation. In a view of the pond, readers see the reflection of the soldiers who once fought there. Papaw gently leads the boys away from their war games, and back to shooting marbles—with an antique round bullet as the shooter. The text demands awareness of the war and will elicit questions, so adults who share the book with children may wish to come armed with even more information than is provided in Seymour's helpful note. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531300749
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.94 (w) x 10.42 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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