cover image A Ballad of the Civil War

A Ballad of the Civil War

Mary Stolz. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027362-0

Elaborating on an old Union army song she heard as a child, Stolz (Go Fish) crafts a slender but emotionally charged story of twins who grow up to fight on opposite sides in the Civil War. Raised in Virginia, the boys follow identical paths until their ninth birthday, when the 14-year-old slave who has been their companion since birth is banished from the ""Big House"" to the slave quarters for being ""uppity."" Tom chafes at the injustice and learns to disapprove of a society in which people are bought and sold ""like they were crockery""; Jack, on the other hand, unquestioningly accepts the traditional order of things. In four brief, moving chapters, Stolz sheds light on some of the factors that led to the Civil War, creating in Tom a personable spokesman for the Union cause. Her pellucid, descriptive prose delivers a bite-size piece of history that is well-suited as a jumping-off point for further discussion. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings. Ages 8-10. (Nov.)