HOW I FOUND THE STRONG

Margaret McMullan, Author . Houghton $16 (136p) ISBN 978-0-618-35008-7

This often gripping first novel set during the Civil War adopts the perspective of a 10-year-old boy who lives on a small farm in rural Mississippi. As the story opens, Frank, nicknamed Shanks "on account of my skinny legs," vies unsuccessfully for his father's attention and love, believing that Pa prefers even their lone slave, Buck, to him, and envying his 14-year-old brother, Henry, who is about to go off to war with Pa. After their departure, however, Frank's views about the glory of battle and about Southern ideologies change, as he and his family battle hunger and as his relationship with Buck strengthens. Morally ambiguous actions challenge Frank: Grampa leaves the struggling family to pursue personal freedom in Texas; a fugitive Confederate Army deserter sentenced to death delivers Ma's baby. Some feats seem a bit superhuman, such as Frank's heroic save of his father near the Strong River, but McMullan sketches these characters memorably and tempers the drama with wry humor, such as Frank's attempt to fashion his own shoes and go courting. A sobering view of the Civil War and a heartening look at a boy's coming of age. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Glued - 136 pages - 978-0-7569-6620-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 136 pages - 978-0-553-49492-1
Open Ebook - 144 pages - 978-0-547-52871-7
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