Hahn (Stepping on the Cracks) crafts a hard-hitting Civil War novel narrated by a 13-year-old boy in Virginia. Haswell's father has died in the Confederate Army and Haswell's 16-year-old brother has recently enlisted, leaving Haswell with his religious Mama and seven-year-old sister, Rachel. As the story opens, Haswell shelters a badly wounded Confederate soldier, despite his mother's instructions to the contrary; she fears harsh Union reprisals if the soldier is discovered in their home, and her fears are brutally realized. The soldier is discovered, and the family farm razed, amid a turbulent series of events that include Haswell's mother's death. Haswell sets off with Rachel, astride a Yankee stallion, in search of their grandmother and, later, their brother. With his bravery and his honest grapplings with complex issues, Haswell will win readers' interest and sympathy from the outset: "I wanted to believe in the glory of war, but so far all I'd seen was soldiers burning farms and stealing food from folks who needed it just as badly as they did." As arrestingly as Haswell and Rachel are portrayed, however, the adults here seem flat; they, too, make difficult choices, but they do so without the children's natural ambivalence. The broad characterizations of the supporting cast detracts from Hahn's otherwise balanced approach to a war with victims-and heroes-on all sides. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Along the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, at the end of the Civil War, chaos is everywhere. Hahn chooses to tell the story of that horrible disintegration through the voice of 13-year-old Haswell Magruder, who is trying to protect his mother and his little sister on the family's farm. Haswell's mother grieves for her husband, who died in the war, and all are worried about the fate of 16-year-old Avery, who joined up with the Confederacy. A young soldier, sick and wounded, appears during a snowstorm. They nurse him back to health, knowing that Yankees could attack them if they discover the family harboring a rebel soldier—and that does happen. Haswell's pacifistic mother kills the captain as he tries to rape her; the soldiers hunt down and kill the patient, and then they burn the house in retribution. The mother goes mad with her guilt and the destruction of all they have known and dies of a fever, leaving the children alone with the dead bodies. It's the details of the diseases, injuries, and deaths that make this novel so realistic, unlike many children's books that might skirt over such gory matters. Haswell and young Rachel (one of the most precocious 7-year-olds you might ever find and a good source of comic relief in this grim tale) take the horse of the dead captain and ride away to find their grandmother and aunts in Winchester, Virginia. There they see their uncle collaborating with the occupying Yankee forces, which disgusts them. Haswell leaves Rachel behind with the family and continues on his journey, now looking for his older brother farther south, near Appomattox. The horror culminates with the final battle that leads to Lee's surrender, and afterwards Haswell searchesthe tents filled with the injured and dying to find his brother. So this is a book about a journey, a literal journey and a figurative one, the latter being a journey into the heart of darkness, as so many other war stories are. Haswell is resourceful, realistically disgusted and horrified by the events that unfold, but strong enough to face the inevitable hard times facing them after the defeat. This is an ideal novel to complement Civil War studies at the middle school level. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, Clarion, 212p.,
During the Civil War, a single act of compassion could result in dire consequences, as thirteen-year-old Haswell Magruder learns. After being branded traitors for taking in a wounded Confederate soldier, Haswell's family members are killed and his home is destroyed. His only hope of any kind of future is to find the rest of his mother's clan, including his older brother, Avery, who ran away to join the fighting. As he journeys through the ravaged lands of southern Virginia, his belief in the glory of war begins to fade. Although this historical novel is as well written as any of the author's previous efforts, it is entirely unremarkable in its content. Nothing new is added to the large cache of Civil War fiction. Events unfold fairly predictably, from the death of Haswell's mother to the invasion of his grandparents' home by Yankees, and to his unfulfilling love interest. The characters also seem rather stock: sister made too wise by war, crotchety grandmother, disillusioned older brother. All of the Confederates are totally good, and all Yankees, except one, are completely bad. Reluctant younger teens might find this book an easy, enjoyable read. Refer seasoned readers to the Civil War novels of Ann Rinaldi, and for those looking for a more intense experience, recommend Harold Keith's classic Rifles for Watie (Corwell, 1957). No one has portrayed the harsh realities of war better. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Clarion, 213p,
In a sober novel of civilian life during the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Haswell Magruder lives with his widowed mother and younger sister, Rachel, on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. After they take in and nurse back to health a wounded Confederate soldier, a small squad of Union soldiers burns their home in retribution and kills the Confederate. In a scene that is not graphically portrayed, a Union officer attempts to rape Haswell's mother, and she shoots him. Wracked with guilt over what she perceives as the murder she has committed, she becomes ill with pneumonia and dies within a day or so, leaving the two children alone in a barren winter landscape. Haswell leads his sister to the relative safety of their grandparents' home in distant Winchester. Then he goes off to find his older brother who is serving with the Confederates somewhere near Petersburg. Along the way, the destitute condition of the South near the end of the war is accurately portrayed. He eventually locates his brother, but Avery has been deeply affected by the war, and Haswell must continue to depend on his own resourcefulness to bring the older boy home. This realistic portrayal of war with all of its consequences will give readers much to think about. There is no glamour in this tale but it is hard to put down. 2003, Clarion Books, Ages 11 to 16.
Gr 5-8-Through the eyes of Haswell Colby Magruder, readers see and experience the horrors of the Civil War. Set in Shenandoah, VA, the story opens as the 13-year-old agrees to hide a wounded Confederate soldier. The Yankees' discovery of the young man on the Magruder farm and their subsequent retaliation starts a sequence of events that culminates with Haswell's escape with his seven-year-old sister, and his later solo journey in search of his older brother, who is fighting in the war. Although the main characters are from the South, Hahn succeeds in writing about the horrors of war without really taking sides. War is the villain here, and people from both sides are its victims. This is a wonderfully written story peopled by believable, three-dimensional characters who exhibit fear, courage, love, hate, compassion, prejudice, and understanding. The drama of the Civil War and the fine storytelling and characterization hook readers from the outset. As in Promises to the Dead (Clarion, 2000), Hahn deals here with the exercise of compassion in the face of danger. This selection is an excellent choice to add to other historical fiction on the Civil War such as Gary Paulsen's Soldier's Heart (Delacorte, 1998) and Ann Rinaldi's Amelia's War (Scholastic, 1999).-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Toward the end of the Civil War, much of northern Virginia is a wasteland, houses and farms destroyed, the smell of smoke lingering in the air. Now the war has reached 13-year-old Haswell Magruder. When a young, wounded Confederate soldier--pursued by Yankees--rides into his family’s life, he sets in motion a chain of events that changes their lives forever. With their house burned to the ground and the farm in ruins, Haswell and his sister must set off on an odyssey across war-torn northern Virginia to find safe haven with relatives. Haswell is an effectively drawn character--too young to fight, but old enough to understand his place in a country at war with itself. Through his eyes, readers see the consequences of war better than any exposition of dates could provide. A memorable journey in the voice of a young boy whom readers will care about, a first-rate story, and an essential addition to Civil War collections. (map) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
"A hard-hitting Civil War novel . . . honest grapplings with complex issues . . . will win readers' interest and sympathy from the outset."— Publishers Weekly "Vivid and accurate portrayal of the period . . . strong setting . . . entertaining and thought-provoking . . . a strong adventure . . . that resonates with universal themes."—Horn Book “A memorable journey in the voice of a young boy whom readers will care about, a first-rate story, and an essential addition to Civil War collections.”—Kirkus Reviews "Wonderfully written story peopled by believable, three-dimensional characters . . . fine storytelling and characterization hook readers from the onset . . . an excellent choice."—School Library Journal "Brings readers up close . . . the action is fast and furious, and kids will be caught up in the story."—Booklist "Even if the fiction shelves are drooping with middle-grade Civil War novels, find room to squeeze in one more."—Bulletin "Well-written . . . Reluctant younger teens might find this book an easy, enjoyable read."—VOYA