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Children's LiteratureAs America divided in the War Between the States, so did the families of America. Sam Shaw is the younger brother of Eli, a Rebel soldier; their cousin Henry fights for the Union army. Despite the title of the book, Sam's experiences are really secondary to those of Eli, Henry and their mothers, who are sisters. Nonetheless, his character, who ages from 13 to 16 during the course of the book, gives the target reader a peer with whom to identify. Readers who thought slavery was the cause of the Civil War will learn how that issue was symptomatic of the larger one of states' rights. But interpersonal relationships take center stage in this account, which focuses less on political aspects and instead on the enormous physical and emotional toll of the war. The book is one in the "I Am American" series from National Geographic, which also includes titles exploring Colonial America, the Oregon Trail and Ellis Island immigration. As would be expected, the books highlight the importance of place in America's past, using a format that combines background narrative text with letters and journal entries from a fictional family to supply a human touch. While keeping a strict chronology, these slim volumes avoid getting bogged down in the sequence of events, focusing instead on the feelings of ordinary people who changed and were changed by America's history. The combination of different illustration styles is well-executed; photographs, when available, are particularly good. Each title includes a glossary and a limited reader's guide that includes internet resources and a few questions and exercises encouraging readers to think further on the subject. 2003, National Geographic Society, Ages 8 to 12.