Jul 22, 2013

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Did you know that The Battle of Gettysburg celebrates it's 150th anniversary this July? The important battle, which took place from July 1 to 3 in 1863, was a Union victory in the largest battle ever fought in North America which helped turn the tide of the American Civil War. One November morning four months later, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery with his now famous Gettysburg Address. In just about two minutes time, our 16th President ushered in a new birth of freedom, proclaiming Gettysburg as a touchstone of our national history. What better time to learn more about this important time in our country's history than during this anniversary month?

Below you will find some of my favorite historical fiction choices that highlight the trials and tribulations that many went through during the American Civil War. There are some great choices for all ages!

Bull Run by Paul Fleischman

 A book best suited for older elementary school-aged children, Bull Run features sixteen different voices which narrate this story: soldier and civilian, slave and free, male and female, young and old, Yankee and Confederate. All tell the tale of how their lives were changed by the First Battle of Bull Run, the first major conflict of the Civil War. This book won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and made many 1993 and 1994 best books lists when originally published. A great pick for parents who may want to share reading a historical fiction chapter book with their children.

 Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln

Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln by Patricia Polacco

In this history-filled, time-traveling fantasy picture book, a visit to a museum unlocks a door to the past! When their grandmother drops them off at a Civil War museum, Michael and Derek don't expect to have a life-changing adventure, but that's exactly what happens when the  museum keeper invites the boys to play a "game." They witness first-hand the human cost of the devastating battle and meet a very convincing Abraham Lincoln. Readers will also be left wondering whether the trip was just a game or a real experience. This book has wonderful illustrations and conveys important historical facts in a fantastical way, making history fun for children of a variety of ages. 

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg 

This 2010 Newbery honor book tells a dramatic, witty Civil War tale which takes readers on a colorful journey as young Homer Figg sets off to follow his brother into the thick of the Civil War. Through a series of fascinating events, Homer's older brother has been illegally sold to the Union Army. It is up to Homer to find him and save him. Along the way, he encounters strange but real people of that era: two tricksters who steal his money, a snake-oil salesman, a hot-air balloonist, and finally, the Maine regiment who saved Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg and won the war for the Union. A good read for the 9-12 year old set.

Unspoken by Henry Cole

This wordless picture book consisting of illustrations done solely in pencil and charcoal is a lovely choice for both younger and older readers. Younger readers will enjoy the picture book format and the ability to create their own story by deciphering the images, while older readers will pick up the nuanced bravery of the characters in this haunting story of a girl and a runaway slave during the Civil War.
In his author’s note Cole talks about hearing Civil War stories during his childhood when he lived on a dairy farm in Loudoun Country, Virginia, a spot close to the battles of Bull Run and Antietam. In Unspoken Cole decided he wanted to tell a different kind of Civil War story than the ones he had heard about battles—one about the quiet courage of individuals. 
Detailed illustrations from Cole's Unspoken

Itching for more Gettysburg history? Check out the Gettysburg Foundation's website for lots of interesting historical facts, Gettysburg museum exhibits and information about visiting the battlefield. The National Park Service  has a webpage dedicated to the battlefield, which is now a National Military Park. The NPS also has a special site to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War with a cool timeline and a link to search for soldiers in a database. Have fun exploring our country's history this summer!