cover image Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War

Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War

Debbie Levy, illus. by Gilbert Ford. Disney-Hyperion, $18.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-4847-2598-6

Through insightful narration and vibrant silhouettes and cartooning, Levy (I Dissent) and Ford (The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring) vividly bring to life a chapter in the U.S. Civil War and the integral role music played during the conflict. Levy sets the stage two years into the war, just before the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg; excerpts from soldiers’ letters are incorporated throughout, giving the account striking immediacy. When opposing troops became entrenched for the winter, music created a temporary connection: “Across the river the melodies floated. Sometimes the soldiers fired tunes back and forth, like musical cannonballs.” Ford depicts this volley with swirling music staffs that rise like orange smoke from the encampments. The motif crescendos at the story’s climax, when one song, “Home, Sweet Home,” unites both sides one winter night. A timeline, bibliographies, and history of the battle, as well as of the poem and song that uplifted homesick soldiers, conclude a bittersweet account of a sharply divided America. Ages 8–10. Author’s agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Feb.)