cover image Escape by Night: A Civil War Adventure

Escape by Night: A Civil War Adventure

Laurie Myers, illus. by Amy June Bates. Holt, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8825

Woodrow Wilson's boyhood inspired this taut novel set in 1863. Tommy's father, like Wilson's, is the pastor of an Augusta, Ga., church converted to a hospital for Confederate soldiers. In the sobering opening scene, nine-year-old Tommy and his sister watch a wagon roll into town piled with mostly dead soldiers (who "looked like old rags that had been cast aside"). When a book falls off the wagon, Tommy returns it to its owner, Red, a wounded soldier who shares his poetry with him. Piecing together clues, Tommy surmises that Red is a Yankee in disguise, and he agonizes about whether to turn him in. Myers (Cat Diaries) effectively contrasts the glorification of the Civil War at its onset, when soldiers paraded proudly off to battle, and the grim reality two years in. Though the pace is swift from the start, it accelerates in the final sequence, as Tommy helps Red and a slave he's befriended escape to the North. Sharp historical fiction, adeptly streamlined for reluctant readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (June)