cover image Girl in Blue

Girl in Blue

Ann Rinaldi. Scholastic Press, $16.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-439-07336-3

Rinaldi (Coffin Quilt; Wolf by the Ears) delivers another fast-paced Civil War adventure, this time about a Michigan girl who masquerades as a Union soldier and then becomes a Pinkerton spy. Readers will immediately like 16-year-old Sarah, introduced just as she is planning to shoot at the lecherous widower whom her abusive father intends for her to marry. Before long, Sarah has enlisted in the Second Michigan under the alias Neddy Compton. Rinaldi rather quickly describes Sarah's efforts to conceal her identity (she cuts her hair and avoids the latrine), and more exacting readers may also wonder how she hides menstruation and breasts. On the other hand, the rapid narrative doesn't leave the audience too much time to question Rinaldi's devices. Sarah works for a Union doctor, enters into battle and shoots her first Rebel, then carries out a dying man's poignant last request. When her secret is at last discovered, she is pressed into service as a spy and thrust undercover as a maid for a notorious Confederate socialite and spy. There Sarah craftily deduces how her Mata Hari mistress ferrets messages behind enemy lines, and there, too, Sarah falls in love with the rakish Lieutenant Sheldon, who may or may not be a traitor. The relationships between the characters do not seem as strong as the narrative claims, however; fortunately, Sarah's force of personality is enough to hold readers. Ages 9-14. (Apr.)