I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Picketts Charge, the suicidal charge led by Robert E. Lee on the last day of Gettysburg, serves as the powerful climax of this Civil War novel, told from the unique perspectives of three girls.
Thirteen-year-old Annie Gordon, disguised as a boy, sells herself as a substitute soldier and joins the Portsmouth Rifles of the Ninth Virginia Army as they march north to Gettysburg. In Gettysburg lives fourteen-year-old Tillie Pierce, the frivolous daughter of a local merchant whose romanticized notion of war is quickly disabused once the fighting begins. Also in Gettysburg are Grace Bryan and her father, who refuse to flee with the other free blacks who fear that the rebels will arrest them as fugitive slaves.
The powerful, gripping novel follows the fates of these girls, fates that reflect the tragedies and triumphs, the humanity, heartache, and heroism of this most dreadful Civil War battle. (source)
I'm currently working on creating a pathfinder targeted at fifth graders for my Resources for Children class. I chose to focus on the Civil War - I've found that I'm more interested in my projects if I can link them to history and I remember studying the Civil War as a fifth grader, so this topic seemed age-appropriate. One of the fiction books that I selected for the assignment is this one, The Girls of Gettysburg by Bobbi Miller.
There are several things that I like about this book. First, I love that it looks at the war from the perspective of girls. When I was selecting books for this pathfinder I was hoping to find books that depicted multiple and unique perspectives, and I found that it this book. One character is a girl from the South who's pretending to be a boy so she can fight with the Confederate Army; one is a local white girl from Gettysburg who tends to think of the war as irrelevant and very far away; and the third is a free black girl, also from Gettysburg, who ends up encountering a few slaves who are running away on the Underground Railroad. These are all definitely perspectives that the history books don't really cover and I thought it would make for an interesting read, especially for female readers.
This was definitely an interesting story, and I liked how Grace and Tillie's lives intertwined, even though Annie never interacted with either of them. I would have been interested to see all three of them interact at some point, but I realize that maneuvering this would be difficult to pull off in a way that would be believable. The most interesting character by far was Grace; I loved reading about the risks that she took and I think that she had the best storyline of the three. Tillie was kind of annoying and bratty, though she did improve by the end of the book, and Annie often felt like a bit of a random character, probably because she wasn't interacting with either Grace or Tillie. Again, while this is understandable, I think it would have made the story more interesting if the author had found a way to make a conversation between the three of them work.
Overall, while I liked this book, I was not blown away by it. I grew up about twenty minutes from Gettysburg, so any time I read a book about it I get a bit nostalgic, so I think that alone would have made me like this story at least a little bit. Miller's character development was decent, especially so with Grace, but if I'm being completely honest, the story dragged a bit at times. The very last page broke my heart - not saying why due to spoilers - but I will say that it was a perfect, though bittersweet, closure to the book. I do think that girl readers who are around 10-12 years old would probably enjoy this book, especially if they're budding history buffs, but adults might not be as impressed.