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Civil War HFiction - Please help me choose...


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I am an Australian homeschooling Mom trying to write my own American History unit studies. 


I would dearly love some help with those of you who know this period of history well and can recommend historical fiction for an 8-11 year old for this history period of the American Civil War. 


So far I have spent a few hours looking through the search functions here and of course reading through samples on amazon. 


I have come up with these book options: Which of these or other books would you vote for & why you liked it perhaps and also, ones on this list you recommend we avoid and why. This would help so much!  Especially if there ones in this list that are not age appropriate. 


Across Five Aprils OR  


Rifles for Watie OR


The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg OR

Shades of Gray

Turn Homeward, Hannalee

Perilous Road

Bull Run OR


Iron Scouts of the Confederacy


Help!! LOL. It is difficult picking books for a history period that I truly know nothing about and will be learning alongside DD10. 


I am trying to avoid any major upsetting details and detailed romance (DD is just 10). 


Thanks in advance. 


Edited by CookIslandsMommy
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We have personal experience with 5 of the 8 titles you list:


Across Five Aprils

excellent book, nuanced and really gives you a feel for the times and the difficult issues that were a part of the war itself with a family having sons serving on both sides; JMO, but I found it to be mature in its complexity and subtlety and not likely to connect with younger readers; I'd suggest it as a reader for ages 14+, and a read-aloud for ages 12+.


Shades of Gray

actually is set just AFTER the Civil War; it is adequately written, not a stand-out book for us; reader for grades 4-6 (late elementary); due to content and interest level, I'd say a read-aloud for a similar age range of grades 4-6


Turn Homeward Hannalee

another book set just AFTER the Civil War; it is well-written but involves some mature ideas -- Hannalee and her older teen sister are captured with a group of other female mill workers, and the sister realizes that the Union soldiers may -- ahem -- take advantage of them, so she covers herself in dirt to avoid looking attractive; the older sister later marries a Union soldier and you get the strong impression it is because she wants to avoid poverty and starving at her old southern home -- these may be ideas above your 10yo DD's interest level; I have boys and the female protagonist and perspective is really geared for girls, not boys (so, I read this one myself and passed on it for my sons); due to subject matter/interest level, I would rate this one as a reader for gr. 8+, and a read-aloud for maybe grade 7+


Perilous Road

set during the Civil War; adequately written; boy protagonist so this one held DSs' interest; I would rate this one as a reader for gr. 4-7 and a read-aloud for a similar age range


Bull Run (by Paul Fleischman)

set during the Civil War; what makes this one so great is describing the battle of Bull Run from so many different first-person points of view, which helps students understand how complex war is, and really opens up the door for some great discussions; highly recommend this one; I would rate it as a reading level of gr. 4-6, but can be used up with gr. 7-8 for the discussion aspect; read-aloud level of gr. 3+



No personal experience with The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, but it has received good reviews on these boards, and is listed for grades 5-8.


One book your DD might really like is Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit. Both our DSs really liked this one. It is the true story (written like historical fiction) of Emma Edmonds, a teen girl who joined the Union army disguised as a boy, and then served as a spy in the South, sometimes "disguised" as a girl. Reader level of gr. 5-8; read-aloud level of gr. 4+.

Edited by Lori D.
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Seconding most of what Lori D said, but I've also read Rifles for Watie and Homer P. Figg. Across Five Aprils is great, but probably too mature. Not inappropriate, just not the best pick for this age. Bull Run is short and excellent. I would say it doesn't give a sense of the scope of the war or the fallout because it's so focused on this one event. But the writing is great. It's extra great to read in a group. All those voices. Hannalee and Shades of Gray are both good, but not favorites of mine. I haven't read The Perilous Road.


Rifles for Watie isn't a great one for me. Meh. I can't remember what I didn't like about it, but I wouldn't do that.


The Absolutely True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is great. It's excellent. It's funny, wide reaching, covers a ton of history and people yet manages to to be accessible and compelling. It's good because it has the emotional what the war was about component without being too much for this age group. It covers different perspectives. It touches on lots of real history. I think it's really my top pick for most students this age just because it's such a good book. We had the pleasure of seeing it staged at the Kennedy Center as well and it was great.

Edited by Farrar
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