cover image The Last Silk Dress

The Last Silk Dress

Ann Rinaldi. Holiday House, $15.95 (350pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0690-6

The theme of loyaltyto friends, family, country and one's beliefsare an involving integral part of this Civil War story. Susan, 14, of Richmond, helps the Southern cause by sewing and nursing the wounded, missing her father and trying not to rile her ``half-mad'' mother, who beats her and calls her a Yankee brat. In one exquisite scene, a troop of soldiers bound for the front pass by Susan's house and salute her for making their flag. After collecting silk dresses from ladies and prostitutes alike to be patched together for a reconnaissance balloon, Susan's view of the war changes; through her charismatic brother Lucien, she begins to see how slavery (and adultery) has undermined and all but destroyed her family. The setting of Rinaldi's rich story has been carefully researched; the writing has an irresistible pull. Ages 12-up. (April)