Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kid Konnection: Soldier Song

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a non-fiction picture book about the Civil War.

Summary: Amid the fearsome battles of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers were urged onward by song.

There were songs to wake them up and songs to call them to bed,
Songs to ready them for battle and to signal their retreat,
Songs to tell them that their side was right, and the other wrong . . .

And there was one song that reminded them all of what they hoped to return to after the war.

Defeated in the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Union soldiers retreated across the river. There, a new battle emerged as both armies volleyed competing songs back and forth. With the Christmas season upon them, however, Federals and Confederates longed for the same thing. As the notes of “Home, Sweet Home” rose up from both sides, they found common ground for one night.

Interwoven with soldiers’ letters and journal entries, this is a true story of duty and heartbreak, of loyalty and enemies, and of the uniting power of music. Debbie Levy’s moving text and Gilbert Ford’s vibrant, layered illustrations come together to create an unforgettable tale of American history. -- Disney/Hyperion

I have reviewed a lot of fantastic picture books through they years, but I'm always excited when I stumble upon one that is a little different. That is definitely the case with SOLDIER SONG: A TRUE STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Gilbert Ford. This picture book isn't your typical picture book. First of all, it's non-fiction; and secondly, it's 80 pages and aimed at the 9 - 12 age range.

SOLIDER SONG is book about the Civil War, admittedly a horrible time in our country's history. However, this picture book shares a different light on the war by featuring the important role that music played during the time period. In fact, I would say that this book is not only educational but also expresses a feeling of hope.

The Civil War has always been one of my favorite history subjects. As a kid, I devoured stories about the Civil War -- remember ACROSS FIVE APRILS? And as an adult, I'm still drawn to books that take place around this time period. And that was initially the appeal of SOLDIER SONG. However as I read this book, I was excited to learn that it highlights a little known story that took place during the siege of Fredericksburg.

During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops sang many songs. Some were to wake them up or call them to bed, some were used to signify battle or retreat, and some were moral boosters. SOLDIER SONG tells the story of when the troops shared their songs with each other... and realized that they had more in common in they first thought. The especially bonded over one song -- Home, Sweet Home.

I absolutely treasured SOLDIER SONG. For starters, it's a beautiful book with a beautiful message. However, I was truly blown away by how Ms. Levy told this story. The book provides lots of historical information about the war, and it also highlights real soldiers' letters, journal entries, and song lyrics to bring the time period to life for young readers. There are also pages at the back of the book with additional details about the Battle of Fredericksburg, famous people at the battle, and the history of Home, Sweet Home.

In addition to the wonderful story, the illustrations by Mr. Ford are absolutely stunning. You might recognize his work from THREE TIMES LUCKY and MR. LIMONCELLO'S LIBRARY; however, he's really outdone himself with SOLDIER SONG. This illustrations are absolutely beautiful and the perfect complement to the story.

I believe SOLDIER SONG should be part of every classroom library. There's an excellent educator's guide which will help teachers and librarians share this story with readers. Not only does this guide include some discussion questions, but it also shares information about the life of a soldier and some primary sources. The activities align with Common Core State standards for English Language Arts for grades 4 and 5.

I honestly can't recommend SOLDIER SONG enough. It's a truly incredible book.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like it brings history alive for young readers. I bet it is perfect for the classroom.

The Book Sage said...

One of my favorite parts of manning the rec table on Sunday mornings is seeing kids dragging their parents into the bookstore. Very happy that my 4 grandchildren all like books.