Gr 5-8-In this fourth book in a series set near Philadelphia in 1862, 12-year-old Thomas, an orphan with three siblings, joins the Union army to escape local bullies and the favoritism his aunt and uncle show toward their own children. Even in the army Thomas encounters bullies yet makes some friends and acquires a dog he names Blue. In his first battle, the Union army is defeated; Thomas narrowly escapes and deserts. Back at home he pretends to be injured to help save face but is discovered. He returns to his regiment with Blue where they participate in the battle of Antietam. The hardships on families and the horrors of war come to life. Related themes such as antislavery, supporting the troops, and preserving the Union are balanced with Thomas's personal problems and experiences. Some unresolved relationships will lead readers to the next installment in this series. Readers of Marty Crisp's Private Captain (Philomel, 2001) will enjoy this title.-Jean Gaffney, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, Miamisburg, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.