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Reviews of Shenandoah

Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite

5 Stars

Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars by Nancy Johnson took me back to the days of the Civil War when fourteen-year-old Hannah Yeager, her thirteen-year-old brother Willy and their friend Charlie Richison find themselves growing up all too quickly because of the war raging around them. Hannah is content with life on the family farm, but Willy longs to be a part of the action and runs off to join a band of raiders, while Charlie finds himself in the midst of a struggle when the Virginia Military Institute is drawn into a skirmish in the Battle of New Market. When the fighting comes to the Yeager farm, Hannah's life will never be the same.

Nancy Johnson creates very believable characters with Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars. Her writing easily evoked real emotion, allowing me to understand the urgency that Willy felt in wanting to join the fighting, but I could also understand his parents' perspective as well. Each character lends a unique voice to the story, providing different perspectives that really add dimension to the plot. I loved the strength of Hannah, and the character of Crazy was one that I could really believe might have lived during that time.

Ms. Johnson's writing paints a vivid portrait of the tumultuous times that went on during the war. That, along with the mention of many very real people, lent a sense of realism to the story, making me feel like I was getting a bit of a history lesson as the story unfolded. The great attention to detail, coupled with very realistic characters and more than a few surprising twists, made for a page turning read, one that left me wanting to know more about Hannah and Willy. This story will appeal to young and old alike, especially fans of Civil War fiction. While this book is the third in a series it can easily be read as a stand alone. I really had no idea that it was part of a series until I finished it. A great Civil War fiction tale that allows readers to step into the lives of three unique characters!


In this book for young readers, three children grow up in a hurry as the U.S. Civil War rages. Hannah, 13, lives on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She, her younger brother, Willy, and their friend Charlie, who is sweet on Hannah, have always spent their time helping on their farms and playing cards with Crazy, a hermit who lives in a nearby cave. But it’s the middle of the Civil War, the effects of which everyone is feeling. Charlie’s older brother died at Gettysburg, his father is an invalid thanks to war wounds, and Charlie is a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, yearning to get into the fight. Now, the Yankee Army is moving through Virginia, burning farms as they go, and though Hannah’s family is against slavery, they know the federal troops will not spare their farm. Hannah finds herself left behind with her parents as Willy joins Mosby’s raiders and Charlie and his fellow cadets are conscripted into the Confederate army under Gen. John Breckinridge. Hannah’s formerly idyllic country childhood is shattered, and now her courage and ability to survive are tested as the ravages of war arrive on her doorstep. In this, her third book for young people about the Civil War, author Johnson shows war from an adolescent’s point of view. The emotional development comes through for engaging and believable characters as they experience not just war, but also the normal changes that children experience during their teenage years. The writing flows well, with enough detail to be informative without seeming didactic. There’s one minor bump, however, when Willy runs off, with no mention of whether his parents were worried, which seems odd. But overall, the story is a convincing one, presenting the realities of a war zone well, though with a light touch appropriate for a young audience. A well-told story of coming of age in war-torn Virginia.

KIRKUS REVIEW


Reviews of A Sweet-Sounding Place

Against the wishes of his Uncle Daniel and Aunt Ruth, 16-year-old Moses Morning runs off from his Boston home to join the newly formed 54th Massachusetts Regiment of black volunteers. Found as a baby lying in the bulrushes like the biblical Moses and taken north to freedom, Moses naively thinks he can join up, head south and find his true parents. While traveling with his regiment through Georgia and Florida, he finds other young people to lead to freedom--three boys and a girl named Samantha, a black Indian who saved and treated Moses after an alligator attack in the Okefenokee Swamp. Though the battle at Fort Wagner and other fights are alluded to, this is the story of Moses being Moses and leading people to freedom, not really a story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in battle. The writing is clear but purposive, with occasional improbable occurrences that add life to the telling. A solid Civil War story for young readers, told from an uncommon vantage point. (author's note, glossary, sources) (Fiction. 9-12)
KIRKUS REVIEW

 

Reviews of My Brothers' Keeper

Fast-paced and captivating, My Brothers' Keeper paints an accurately grim picture of the Civil War, focuses on the human cost and impact of war, and brings a personal connection to a time in history often reduced to statistics, biographies of famous generals, and battlefield names (grades 5 - 8).
Iowa Reading Journal


In her new book for 9- to 12-year-olds, Nancy Johnson keeps this notion well in her mind. "My Brother's Keeper," her short saga of coming of age during the Civil War has believable, interesting characters in a historically accurate setting. It sets a good pace and holds the attention of readers who are well into adulthood.
--William David Barry, Books, Maine Sunday Telegram, March 29, 1998


The story unfolds in a tight narrative that will hold readers' interest, and Josh's character development is both believable and touching. Historical details are accurate; anyone who has visited Civil War battle sites will find the experiences at Little Round Top and The Wilderness as convincing as they are exciting.
Starr E. Smith, School Library Journal


Joshua's bravery despite his fears makes him a fascinating character and this novel a wonderful tale of brotherly love and of the hardships of war.
Rebecca Joseph, Children's Literature, June 1998



 
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