Author: Kate Connell
Illustrator: Civil War paintings from various private and public collections including the Library of Congress
Publisher: National Geographic Society
ISBN: 0-7922-5179 Paperback
Audience: Ages 12 and up
Summary: Illustrated text, letters and diary excerpts follows two families – the Abbotts in Ohio, whose son, Henry, is fighting for the Union Army, and the Shaws from Tennessee, whose son, Eli, is fighting for the Confederacy, during the Civil War.
Literary elements at work: This book is historical fiction. The photographs and the dates/events are real, but the narrator (Sam Shaw) and his family’s story are fictional. The events of the Civil War are told from the view of a thirteen year old boy’s journal and letters exchanged by two sisters, Julia Shaw and Edwina Abbott. Each sister has a son fighting and each sister holds to her beliefs regarding the war. They express genuine concern for each other’s family as well. The story is told in first person. The style of the book is easy to read. The author provides a glossary of war terms in the back of the book. The tone is realistic; the author remains neutral allowing each family to express their emotions and opinions.
Perspective: This book gives the reader a view of how war affects and changes two families forever. This emotional and personal story is the “true” story of thousands of families who lived during this time. Slavery is mentioned briefly and I think that was an intentional decision by the author in order to give the effects of war from both sides.
Theological conversation partners: The book makes it clear – war changes families. The book ends with the painful realities of war for the Abbotts and the Shaws. The sisters, Julia and Edwina, continue to write to each other, but “they never completely regained the closeness they had before war divided them” (39). There is no shortage of families in the Bible who have issues; some reconcile, some do not. Esau and Jacob reconcile (Genesis 33) after Esau was cheated out of his birthright and the blessing of the oldest son. Joseph is forgives and is reconciled with his brothers after Joseph is left in a pit by his brothers, taken to Egypt and sold into slavery (Genesis 37, 39 – 50). Sadly, David and his son, Absalom do not reconcile before Absalom is killed (2 Samuel 18:33 – 19:8). God, through Jesus Christ reconciled all of us to God’s self. Second Corinthians 5:18 – 20 from The Message says, “All this comes from God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.”
Faith Talk Questions:
- How has war affected you or someone you know? Discuss.
- You and a friend have an argument. How do you “make up” or reconcile?
- Why do you think it is important for us to forgive?
- Why do you think that it is so hard sometimes to say we are sorry for something we’ve done wrong?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Adelaide Barringer.
Yankee Blue or Rebel Gray by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.