Review by Kirkus Book Review
Reeder (Shades of Gray, 1990, etc.) returns to the era of the Civil War for this powerful, moving story of friendship, loss, and courage. In May 1864 the Union forces are massing along the Appomattox in preparation for the siege of the supposedly impregnable Petersburg, and Edward's family must flee their plantation, Riverview, to stay with a relative. In the confusion, Edward's slave and best friend, Simon, runs off to freedom. Too young to join the Union Army, he finds work doing odd jobs for the Yankees. He misses Edward, but the sight of the black Union troops, who show incredible courage in the opening battles of the siege, make him aware that there is no turning back for him. Edward misses Simon, too, and chafes at life under siege, with the constant shelling and his inability to help in the war effort. For both boys, war becomes a crucible: Simon struggles to find a place and true freedom with the Union forces; Edward watches with envy as his arrogant older brother goes off to join the Rebel forces, only to fall ill with a terrible fever that can only be brought down by doses of quinine--available behind enemy lines in the Union hospital. There are no easy answers in this clear-eyed evocation of the cruelty and dangers of a tragic war; Reeder casts problem after problem before her young protagonists, and allows them the strength and character to fend for themselves on the way to finding solutions. (Fiction. 8-12)
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