The Storm Before Atlanta by Karen Schwabach

Thursday March 10, 2011

The Storm Before Atlanta
by Karen Schwabach
December 2010
Random House
Goodreads summary: At a time when most people have grown weary of the war between the states, two young children are desperate to find their way to the battlefields. Jeremy DeGroot wants nothing more than to join a troop as a drummer boy. For Dulcie, a runaway slave, freedom means she must head directly toward the fighting in the hopes that she'll become "contraband," that is, property of the Union troops. Both Jeremy and Dulcie find a place with the 107th New York Volunteer Regiment and even start to forge a friendship. But all that is threatened when they keep crossing paths with the mysterious Charlie, a young Confederate soldier, who may look like the enemy but feels more like a friend. 

Young readers who like their fiction filled with exciting historical details, rich characters, and action-packed adventures will be drawn to The Storm Before Atlanta.

Pontifications...There are a lot of different reasons, but I have always enjoyed books set during the Civil War. The North, the South, the passions that people were fighting for and some who just fought because they had to. Did you know that 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War? Books like The Storm Before Atlanta are an excellent way to bring the topic into the classroom and to commemorate the lives that were lost in the bloodiest battles on American soil. 

This particular story shows the difficulty that many soldiers had in fighting "brother against brother". When Jeremy, who is from the North, meets up with Charlie, who is fighting for the south, start trading rations and swapping stories between battles, both boys start to realize that the differences between them very small. This is especially eye-opening for Jeremy who had heroic dreams and aspirations when he joined the 107th New York Volunteer Infantry. Jeremy and Charlie end up befriending Dulcie, an escaped slave, after they rescue her from drowning. Together all three of them question their place in the momentous battle as they experience not-so-glorious bloody battles and the death that surrounds them. 

The books descriptions of amputations and other medicinal care the soldiers receive is graphically realistic and vividly shows the horrors of war (without going overboard). All three characters, Jeremy, Charlie and Dulcie do a great job of representing different views of the war and the complex nature of what we think is "right and "wrong". This is a great book and I recommend it for grades 5 and up!