cover image Moon Over Tennessee: A Boy's Civil War Journal

Moon Over Tennessee: A Boy's Civil War Journal

Craig Crist-Evans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-395-91208-9

""I rode from Gettysburg to Tennessee and I saw the country weeping,"" says the unnamed 13-year-old narrator to his mother after the spring and summer of 1863, during the Civil War. Told through free-verse stanzas in diary format, the novel communicates the boy's strong love of his Tennessee farm: ""I've lived here long as I remember,/ carved into this family like my daddy's name/ cut deep into the oak that stands/ there at the corner of the field."" The narrator explains that he's going off to war ""not because my daddy thinks the South should fight against the North but we've been so long a piece of Tennessee."" Some readers may think the book's disavowal of slavery as a decisive factor in the war teeters close to revisionist history, but Crist-Evans supports the main characters' stance throughout the text; the narrator's best friend is a free African-American, and the father shares their meager rations with an escaping slave family on their journey. The boy himself does not engage in combat, but cares for his father's horse until the battle at Gettysburg, which exacts a devastating personal price. Christensen's (An Edible Alphabet) haunting black-and-white woodcuts capture a broad emotional range. A casual scene of soldiers and horses resting under a tree on their way to battle offers a marked contrast to a searing image of men with lanterns searching for bodies on the abandoned battlefield. A map of the route and a concise afterword provide a historical context for this personal take on a monumental event. Ages 8-up. (May)