Review by Booklist Review
Gr. 5-8. Determined to leave her unhappy home in rural Michigan, Sarah disguises herself as a boy and joins the Union army. She serves in a hospital, then in combat, where she shoots a man and watches as his heart stop beating. Later, after her identity is revealed, she is invited to join the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Instructed to spy upon a spy, Rose Greenhow, Sarah joins the household as a maid and learns everything she can about the wily woman and her subterfuges. Based on research into the lives of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Rose Greenhow, and Allan Pinkerton, this first-person novel will engage readers through its sympathetic main character and exciting action. The story slows down a bit in the second half, and Sarah's love interest is not quite convincing. Still, readers will find Sarah an adventurous heroine and her story an involving one. --Carolyn Phelan
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Rinaldi (Coffin Quilt; Wolf by the Ears) delivers another fast-paced Civil War adventure, this time about a Michigan girl who masquerades as a Union soldier and then becomes a Pinkerton spy. Readers will immediately like 16-year-old Sarah, introduced just as she is planning to shoot at the lecherous widower whom her abusive father intends for her to marry. Before long, Sarah has enlisted in the Second Michigan under the alias Neddy Compton. Rinaldi rather quickly describes Sarah's efforts to conceal her identity (she cuts her hair and avoids the latrine), and more exacting readers may also wonder how she hides menstruation and breasts. On the other hand, the rapid narrative doesn't leave the audience too much time to question Rinaldi's devices. Sarah works for a Union doctor, enters into battle and shoots her first Rebel, then carries out a dying man's poignant last request. When her secret is at last discovered, she is pressed into service as a spy and thrust undercover as a maid for a notorious Confederate socialite and spy. There Sarah craftily deduces how her Mata Hari mistress ferrets messages behind enemy lines, and there, too, Sarah falls in love with the rakish Lieutenant Sheldon, who may or may not be a traitor. The relationships between the characters do not seem as strong as the narrative claims, however; fortunately, Sarah's force of personality is enough to hold readers. Ages 9-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-9-Inspired by the war fever of 1861, and tired of her father's mistreatment, 15-year-old Sarah Wheelock determines to run away and join the Union forces to fight the Confederacy. The last straw comes when her father promises her hand in marriage to a man who is twice her age and has the manners of a bear. After she cuts her hair, changes clothes, and lowers her voice, Sarah has few problems passing as a boy: years of hard farm labor have toughened her physically, and she has a natural talent for impersonation. Soon, young Private "Neddy Compton" is on the road to Washington, DC, with the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Despite being a model enlisted "man," Sarah is unmasked, and is transferred into the Secret Service, part of Allan Pinkerton's network of spies. Her acting skills are tested in a new and dangerous disguise, as a servant to notorious Rose Greenhow and other Southern sympathizers who are being held under house arrest. Here, the young woman's patriotism, loyalty, and intelligence will be tested beyond anything she experienced as a soldier. While Sarah and the other characters lack depth, Rinaldi's novel offers an exciting plot based on solid historical research.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
Fleeing an abusive father, Sarah Wheelock disguises herself as a boy and joins the Union Army. She assists a physician until her gender is discovered, then goes to work undercover for the Pinkerton Detective Agency as a maid to Rose Greenhow, notorious Confederate spy. This complicated situation occupies most of the book, which is plausible and interesting but sometimes lacks fluidity. From HORN BOOK Fall 2001, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Loosely based on an actual woman who disguised herself as a soldier during the Civil War, this historical novel tells the story of Michigan farm girl Sarah Wheelock, who becomes first a solider and then a detective for the Pinkerton Agency in Washington. On the verge of being forced to marry a vicious neighbor, Sarah sneaks off from home. Her plan is to visit an aunt in Flint and then join the Union forces disguised as a man. Rinaldi sticks to Sarah's point of view, but oddly fails to mine her materials for all the suspense and thrills inherent in the gender switching. Only once do readers see her evading latrines, and never is there a discussion of how any adjustment of her shape or sensibilities is required. Suspense builds on several occasions, each time dwindling to a fizzle. Sent to spy on Rose Greenlaw, a southern sympathizer, Sarah falls head over heels for a good-looking Lieutenant even though she suspects he may be a traitor. Before readers discover whether his professed love for her is true or if he knowingly aids Rose, Sarah falls ill and the story swerves again. Finally, Sarah returns for a quick visit home dressed in her soldier disguise, and unbelievably her mother fails to recognize her, although her brother does. African-American readers may not agree with Rinaldi's decision to use speech patterns for Negro refugees from the South without concomitant speech patterns for southern drawls or other accents. Rinaldi defends her choices in an author's note at the end, citing her desire for historical accuracy. Accurate or not, this is only one of a series of missteps that will disappoint readers used to Rinaldi's talent. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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