Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War Library Binding – Sep 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Turner (Dust for Dinner) takes readers to a Civil War battlefield in this disturbing picture book narrated by an idealistic 13-year-old. The premise is much the same as that of Gary Paulsen's novel Soldier's Heart (reviewed July 20); unfortunately, the lessons may be too complex for a picture book audience, at least in this treatment. The narrator, a farm boy, has liked Lincoln ever since he gave a speech in the boy's town, and sometime after war breaks out (no specific time or place is given) the memory of that encounter inspires him to join up. He also wants to free the slaves. Lying about his age, he is enlisted as a drummer boy, asked to march with the troops and "raise a tune for our men in battle." In the heat of bloody confrontation, the boy witnesses the atrocities of war. He holds the hand of a mortally wounded soldier "until his eyes stopped seeing." Poetic turns of phrase further describe how grim reality quickly dims a boy's bright-eyed patriotism. But there are problems here. The passage about slavery seems tacked on, the boy never feels fully real and the most interesting information about drummer boys is relegated to an afterword. The ending misfires: the boy bitterly blames Lincoln for making him "see things no boy should ever see." Hess's (Hercules: The Man, the Myth, the Hero) atmospheric, dramatic scenes capture period touches as well as the serenity of rural life and the action of combat. But he, too, stumbles: while all of the other scenes are carefully lit and detailed, a view of slave quarters is so muddy and imprecise that a slave woman looks shockingly misshapen and simian. Well intended but off the mark. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4-After hearing Lincoln speak, a 13 year old is mesmerized by the president's powerful presence and runs away to join the Union Army as a drummer boy. After a quick acceptance by the army, he eagerly dons his uniform and learns how to handle his instrument. The battle scenes are frightening but not terribly gory. The unnamed youngster is understandably disturbed as he witnesses his first deaths. He does not become hardened to the sadness, but he does learn to cope and do his job, relaying orders with his drumbeats and masking some of the agonized battle sounds. Two portraits frame the story. In the first, he is an innocent-looking farm boy wearing a straw hat, a small, anticipatory smile on his lips. By the end of the book, his eyes are shadowed and his mouth is set in a firm line. He has seen "things no boy should ever see." The narrative does not have the emotional pull of George Ella Lyon's Cecil's Story (Orchard, 1991) or the gut-wrenching power of Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say (Philomel, 1994). However, Turner's prose vividly relates the boy's situation in a few well-chosen words set off in small boxes. Paired with Hess's historically illuminating paintings, the result is an informative introduction to the Civil War. It would be a great resource to share with students reading fiction such as G. Clifton Wisler's Mr. Lincoln's Drummer (1995) or Red Cap (1991, both Lodestar).
Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The protagonist is an unnamed thirteen year old rural farm boy. His brother, Jed, has already gone ahead to him into battle, and the boy yearns to join. He makes his decision after seeing President Abraham Lincoln at a train station. The boy feels the sad president was looking right at him, needing him to serve his country. The boy's family seems rather indifferent to the slavery issue, feeling it is none of their business, but the boy does sympathize for the slaves. He writes a goodbye note, and leaves home.
He enlists, lying and claiming to be fifteen years old, and is assigned to be a drummer boy. He becomes part of his company, and then goes into his first battle. The terror of the cannon noise and falling bodies around him freeze him in place. A soldier dies holding his hand. Soon, the boy is almost a veteran, the battles run together. The faces of his friends and acquaintances blur together as well, and he takes special care to remember each and every one, since they may not be there the next day. The final page gives adults and children alike something to ponder, in the voice of the battle hardened boy: "And when the war's over and I go home, I'll stop to talk to Mr. Lincoln and tell him how it's his fault, how his great, sad eyes made me go and see things no boy should ever see."
"Drummer Boy" is a wonderful book for all ages. The text and pictures are just twenty eight pages long, with an interesting one page historical note, and Turner and Hess do not waste a word or image.Read more ›
They are equally mesmerized by the incredible imagery of the illustrations. In just 28 pages, the boy in the story changes from a fresh-faced innocent of 13 to a world-weary adult in a matter of months.
The language in the book makes it a perfect compliment to a study of metaphors and similes. He describes his attraction to Mr. Lincoln as "sometimes you take to a person, the way a horse snuffs up the smell of someone." And goes on to describe him as looking "so kind and sad, towering up into the sky like a black tree."
Like many other books with war as the theme, Drummer Boy personalizes death due to combat. However, unlike most other books, it does so in a mere 40 words that leave the most powerfully gripping image I have yet to read in a children's book. Instead of describing death and destruction in gory detail, the passage concentrates on describing the dying soldier's hand clasped in the protagonist's until he dies. Not once was blood, bullets, or wounds mentioned...
"One near me cried for his mother.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I love to teach history and this book is a winner. I am always amazed how children focus on the glory of war, not the reality. This book gently brings home the reality. Read morePublished on June 9 2000 by Sandra Hunt
This story is about a boy who joined the army because Abraham Lincoln asked him to so he can bring spirit to the solders. So he did and became a drummer boy. Read morePublished on May 17 2000
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