New Titles Mark Battle of Gettysburg Milestone by Sarah Wendorf

Before launching into my book discussion, I feel there is a not-so-secret thing to which I must admit: I am a history geek. A long time ago in a 5th grade class not too far away, I was given a state to research for our big fifth grade project. Students in my class had to write to different state tourism departments to get information, research in the library, etc. I ended up with Pennsylvania. One little paragraph I wrote on the battle of Gettysburg and I hooked my dad on Civil War history. Many family trips to battlefields followed and it was listening to park rangers and battlefield guides share the words of those who lived, died and endured at those places that brought history alive.

When July 1 arrives, it will be the 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg began. With the sesquicentennial of the battle come new nonfiction and historical fiction books about the battle. Earlier this spring I was thrilled to discover an arc of Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Civil War on Netgalley. While I was excited that there was a new memoir I could get for my school library written about a teen’s experiences, it was Tillie’s name that caught my interest more than her age. On many of the programs I’ve attended at Gettysburg National Military Park, Tillie was mentioned again and again. (For more about Tillie Pierce by Tanya Anderson, check out Jane Kise’s Nerdy Book Club post from April 24th.)

what-was-battle-gettysburg-jim-oconnor“What Was the Battle of Gettysburg?” by Jim O’Connor is a title in a new accessible series from Penguin.  I could predict many of the quotes and anecdotes in the book, but in this case that was a good thing! I liked that this book didn’t fall into the whole shoe myth about the start of the battle and that the Doubleday baseball legend is also dealt with as what it is: only a legend. I also like that this book acknowledged areas where historians debate the truth of what some battle participants claimed as truth, such as Dan Sickles. I like books that show history as an area with debates and changes in interpretation over time rather than something that is static. Another interesting inclusion was a letter from a relative of the author who fought and died at the battle. Some of the photograph choices in this title perplexed me, such as one of a regiment that was not at the battle. I found this title to be a handy, surprisingly detailed introduction to Gettysburg.
I survived gettysburgMany of my fifth grade students enjoy the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. I Survived: The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 is the newest entry in this series of children survivors. Thomas and his younger sister Birdie escape from their owners in Virginia. When they run into the Union Army they come under the care of a Corporal Henry Green. This fast moving book begins with Thomas in the middle of battle, explosions all around, and then flashes back to the plantation he grew up on. At the end of the book, Lauren includes an explanation of why she wrote about the Civil War and some of the resources she found useful.
There are thousands of books about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln with more being printed each year. These three can capture the attention of young readers by transporting them to the fields and towns of a century and a half ago.
Sarah Wendorf is the LMTC Director of a 5th-6th grade school in southern Wisconsin.  She can be found on Twitter as @pageintraining and writes at