Author: Richard Peck
Summary: Unlike Peck’s other books, such as A Year Down Yonder and The Teacher’s Funeral, this novel is serious in tone. It switches between two time periods, 1916 and 1861. The time switch occurs suddenly without any explanation until the end of the story, which could prove confusing for some. It is rare for a young adult or children's novel to be written as a "framed tale," but this one does so with little awkwardness.
The main story line is about a young girl named Tilly living in Illinois at the beginning of the Civil War. Her family’s routine is changed when they take in two strangers who arrive from the south by steamboat; Delphine and Calinda. Tilly learns about family, prejudice, and standing up for herself through her experiences with these newcomers.
The secondary story line, in which a young boy learns the truth about his family and his heritage, is what encases Tilly's story. It seems almost unneccesary until Peck wraps it all together at the end, making the two stories into one lesson about acceptance and pride in yourself and your family.
This novel tells about an aspect of the Civil War history that most young readers will know little about – the free blacks who lived in New Orleans and how the threat of the war and the changes it could bring affected them. It also gives insight into the fear of being “found out” in the case of those whose skin was light enough to “pass” as white.
Pride in yourself
Grades five and up
Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence, etc.: mild depictions of the aftermath of battles and illness