Friday, May 30, 2008

Flames Across the Susquehanna by Glenn Banner

We were supposed to spend 2 weeks reading and talking about the Civil War. It turned into... a lot more than that. The boy is very interested in war and weaponry. The girl, not so much, but she likes to be read to, (almost) no matter what the topic.

I came across Flames Across the Susquehanna while doing a library search on Civil War books my kids could read on their own. When I brought it home, I knew neither of them would read it, so it turned into a read-aloud.

It's a fictional account of a young Pennsylvania boy who joins the Union army as a drummer boy. There is a lot of background story before he actually goes off to war - interesting, not compelling, except for some references to the underground railroad. The climax of the story is the night of June 28, 1863, when the bridge over the Susquehanna River (between the cities of Wrightsville and Columbia) is burned. The author says:

"I don't believe the Battle of Gettysburg would have been fought if it wasn't for the burning of the bridge. But that story is something that has been lost."

This book's reading level is probably around 10-14 years, give or take, you know. As I read, the Hardy Boys books kept coming to mind - the writing style was similar. The edition I had - probably the only edition available - was a little hard to read. Trying to conserve paper, I guess, the publisher did not leave enough white space on the pages. Also it did not follow normal page numbering conventions, so the right-hand page was not always an odd number. (Pages with a drawing were not numbered.) These sorts of problems bother me a little. I like books; I like nice books. Yes, I am peculiar that way.

The story itself was quite exciting once it got into the actual war, and I'm glad I read it to my kids instead of just handing it off. The descriptions of battles were a little rough. It did not shy away from death - it is a war story, after all. A beloved character dies. It is written from a Christian viewpoint, though, so there is always a feeling of hope and comfort of meeting again. It does not glorify war but this was presented as a just war, at least in my view.

I see that each year on June 28 the cities reenact the bridge-burning. We can't go this year, so I haven't told my kids about that. I hope to go while we are still living here. It's the day after my boy's birthday, and I can't imagine a more exciting way to spend it.

1 comment:

Framed said...

I love the way ayou are teaching your kids about the history of this country. Your discussions sound like you are able to include so many pros and cons. Visiting the reenactment would be wonderful.