Letters from Vinnie

Maureen Stack Sappey, Author, Mareen Stack Sappey, Author, Handprint, Author Front Street $16.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-886910-31-7
Sappey's (the Young American series) epistolary novel stars a little-known heroine of the Civil War, Vinnie Ream. Based on the artist who sculpted a famous statue of President Lincoln, the story opens as 13-year-old Vinnie writes to her fictive friend Regina just before the war begins in 1861 and concludes in 1869 during Johnson's impeachment proceedings. The author vividly paints the contrast in the capital where life goes on as usual amidst the war and destruction; especially convincing is her account of a picnic at Bull Run where battle breaks out unexpectedly. She skillfully uses major and minor characters to illustrate the most painful effects of the war: division between families (Vinnie's brother defies their Unionist family to fight for the Confederacy) and dashed dreams (a 16-year-old bugler, accepted into the Peabody Conservatory before the war, loses both hands). However, the letters themselves unfortunately often read more like bland diary entries; Regina remains undefined and seems more like a device for delivering information (""Regina, I am pleased you wish to learn more about sculpting a bust"" than a friend. And the protagonist's sometimes passive recounting of dramatic events undercuts their impact. While readers' interest in Vinnie Ream and the Civil War in general may be awakened by the novel, the epilogue and a letter from the author describe an extraordinary woman who is not entirely captured in these pages. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/07/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 252 pages - 978-1-59078-538-6
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