Friday, November 06, 2009

Children’s Books: Death on the River by John Wilson

In Death on the River (Orca Books), veteran children’s author John Wilson weaves a compelling tale with his first person, present tense account of the final days of the American Civil War.

We see the horrors of war through the eyes of Jake Clay, a young soldier who enlisted after his brother was killed in battle. Young Jake is wounded and taken prisoner in his very first battle:
I come to with a pair of Rebel soldiers holding an ankle each and hauling me, upside down, over the breastworks. I feel like my head is going to explode every time it bumps against a log. It doesn’t, but I keep blacking out.
John Wilson has written over 20 books for this age group, all of them focused on illuminating some aspect of history for young people. He does a great job. In fact, sometimes in Death on the River if anything it’s too good an illumination. Though he (thankfully) brings little of the actual gore, we feel the horrors of war very keenly. It’s a lesson it’s always good to remember: one we are not able to forget.

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