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Children's Literature Reviews
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Amelia's war
Ann Rinaldi.
New York : Scholastic Press, 1999.
265 p. ; 22 cm.

Annotations:

Includes bibliographical references (p. 264-265 ).
When a Confederate general threatens to burn Hagerstown, Maryland, unless it pays an exorbitant ransom, twelve-year-old Amelia and her friend find a way to save the town.

Best Books:

Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Fourteenth Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education; California

Reading Measurement Programs:


Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 4
Accelerated Reader Points 7
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 580

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 13
Lexile Measure 580

Reviews:

Debbie Carton (Booklist, November 15, 1999 (Vol. 96, No. 6))
This tale of Amelia Grafton, a Maryland teen growing up during the Civil War, showcases a combination of research and lively characterization. Although Amelia's family is pro-Union, many people in Hagerstown have Southern leanings, including her best friend, Josh. As Hagerstown is buffeted by fighting, Amelia tries to remain neutral. When a Confederate general threatens to burn Hagerstown unless the townspeople pay an exorbitant ransom, Amelia secretly finds a way to save the town. This gripping, fast-paced story, based on a true incident, particularly shines in its depiction of the subtleties of everyday life: chores must be done, church attended, and good manners remain intact--even in treating enemy soldiers. What's more, by making Amelia neutral, Rinaldi allows the reader enough distance to better understand the conflicts that led to the war. Category: Middle Readers. 1999, Scholastic, $15.95. Gr. 5-9.

Jessica Becker (Children's Literature)
In this incredibly compelling work of historical fiction, readers experience the Civil War in Hagerstown, Maryland through the eyes of Amelia. Amelia is a young woman coming of age, grappling with complicated issues with courage, dignity, and an ambitious feminism that is inspiring. Rinaldi's historical characters are interwoven with all the important people and events of the war, bringing the time period and tragedy to life. In no way a romanticized portrayal, this story of a young woman and her town leaves the reader with a much deeper understanding of a war that gripped our country, left no one untouched, and left the face of our nation permanently changed. 1999, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 13 up.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In this novel inspired by the Confederate ransom of Hagerstown, Md., Rinaldi's (The Coffin Quilt) backdrop is as compelling as ever, but the narrator's undeveloped character lessens its intensity. The story begins in 1861, as 11-year-old Amelia Grafton relates the Civil War's impact on her sharply divided yet tightly linked town: "Mama and I were Southerners, but not Rebels. We were for the Union, but not the Yankees. You have to be from Maryland to understand it." When Amelia's actions inadvertently contribute to the demise of her friend's father, a Confederate-sympathizing newspaperman, and his printing press, Amelia vows to remain neutral which, unfortunately, translates as a rather passive recounting of events through most of the novel. Among the book's strengths are some riveting characters both real (Generals Lee and Custer make cameo appearances) and imagined (e.g., the fictional Jinny Pearl shoots a Rebel soldier after he attempts to rape her and disguises herself as a man to enlist). The pace picks up in the last quarter of the novel when, in 1864, Confederate General McCausland threatens to burn Hagerstown unless its citizens pay an astronomical ransom, and Amelia must finally choose sides. However, readers will likely find the unfolding of Amelia's outfoxing of the general implausible (she applies white paint to alter the ransom order) and may not stay with the book long enough to witness the highly personal price of this war. Ages 10-14. (Nov.)

Connie Russell (The ALAN Review, Winter 2000 (Vol. 27, No. 2))
Amelia's Maryland town is split by allegiance to the Confederacy or the Union. After Amelia carries a story to the town's newspaper editor, there are consequences that make Amelia vow not to take sides in the war. That decision is difficult to keep as her family and friends take sides. When a Confederate general threatens to burn the town if a ransom isn't met, Amelia must get involved. Ann Rinaldi brings history to life again as she builds a story around the ransom of Hagerstown, Maryland, which took place in 1864. Young readers will find themselves caught up in the events of the Civil War battles and the characters in this book. Genre: Civil War. 1999, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 9 to 12.

Mary Arnold (VOYA, December 1999 (Vol. 22, No. 5))
Through the mystery of an altered document and young Amelia Grafton, the reader is taken back to the Civil War and Hagerstown, Maryland. Historically, Maryland occupied a difficult but crucial position, pro-Union but also home to many Southern sympathizers. This community strife is reflected in Amelia's decision to maintain personal neutrality, even while her Unionist father must flee the city during one of the three invasions by Lee's army. Amelia's older brother is a Federal soldier, but her youngest brother, Schuyler, is dazzled by the chance to meet General Lee and ride the legendary Traveller. Amelia's mother and Aunt Lou, the family servant, offer food and first aid to soldiers from both sides. These elements should make for an exciting story, but there is distance over depth in the tone, and it feels like a costumed history lesson. There is no sense of the agonized indecision and confusion that a girl on the cusp of adolescence, caught in a maelstrom of conflict, would be feeling. With a mix of ideologies and issues including women's rights, freedom of the press, and abolition, there is a tendency to teach facts rather than let the story divulge them. This is not the Rinaldi book to capture new readers, but her fans will likely check it out. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1999, Scholastic, 272p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 15.

Subjects:

Ransom Fiction.
Hagerstown (Md.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865 Juvenile fiction.
Hagerstown (Md.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865 Fiction.
Maryland Fiction.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865 Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.R459 Am 1999
98023286 [Fic]
0590117440 (alk. paper)
9780590117449
9780590117449
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