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Leigh Ann's Civil War

Review

Leigh Ann's Civil War

Ann Rinaldi is one of the most popular historical fiction writers for young people today. A favorite topic of hers, the American Civil War, comes alive again in this novel told through the point of view of 11-year-old Leigh Ann Conners, a half-Cherokee girl living in Georgia. The story revolves around Leigh Ann’s tumultuous family life, the difficulties of growing up in a fractured nation, and the effects that war had not only on the country, but on the individual person as well.

Leigh Ann’s tale begins in 1861: Georgia has recently seceded from the Union, and the young girl is worried that her brothers will be harmed in the war. Although she cares for Teddy and Louis, she dislikes how strict they are with her. But they act this way out of necessity; their father is not in his right mind, and their mother left the family years before.

In the midst of family issues, Leigh Ann’s fears are realized when her brothers go off to fight for the South at Manassas, Virginia. Taking advantage of the boys’ absence, Leigh Ann’s mother appears and kidnaps her. Although she is rescued, the incident sends a shock through Leigh Ann, causing her to mature. She decides to take part in the home front effort, which includes writing to soldiers in the fields and helping any elderly person whose son or sons have left for battle. All the while, she can’t help but think about the well-being of her brothers.

Eventually, Teddy and Louis return home, and though injured, they are well enough to run the family mill. The mill begins making cloth to help the Confederacy, but they must appear neutral or face charges of treason. When Leigh Ann takes part in the deception by putting a French flag on the roof, she is arrested along with her sister, sister-in-law, and all the workers at the mill. They must march away from Georgia, and Leigh Ann knows she has to be strong to protect herself and her family.

The march is an eye opener for Leigh Ann, who sees the devastation left in the South and how badly slaves are treated. This is much unlike the slaves at her home, who are treated like family. The march makes her rethink what the war is about, and she begins to see that things aren’t always so black and white.

Ann Rinaldi provides rich historic details for this story, which is based on real families who worked in Southern mills. Reading about history through fiction is a new and fun way to learn about a little-known episode of the famous war, and she crafts a strong and memorable heroine in Leigh Ann Conners.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on September 28, 2009

Leigh Ann's Civil War
by Ann Rinaldi

  • Publication Date: September 28, 2009
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 015206513X
  • ISBN-13: 9780152065133