Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Journal of Rufus Rowe: A witness to the Battle of Fredericksburg

The Journal of Rufus Rowe: A witness to the Battle of Fredericksburg

Sid Hite
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 to and up
Scholastic, 2003   ISBN: 978-0439353649

Though Rufus Rowe is still quite young, he is wise in some ways beyond his years. He seems to be able to see things as they really are and also to be able to express his thoughts in a clear and concise fashion. He is asked why he thinks his country is at war with itself and replies "it seems to me the North has an idea about what is proper and the South has another idea, and the two sides are fighting because their ideas are different." Frustrated with his terrible relationship with his stepfather, Rufus decides to leave his family home in Bowling Green, Virginia, and goes to the nearby town of Fredericksburg. The year is 1862 and the country is in a state of confusion as to what its destiny is. Rufus tries to find a place for himself and observes the war unfold around him. At times battles rage right on his very doorstep. Rufus is a witness to the deaths of thousands of men and boys which horrifies him to his very core. He quickly recognizes that in war "you lose when you lose and you lose when you win." A brave, matter-of-fact boy who knows that "Keeping low is good advice" when guns are going off, Rufus is undeniably likeable. He is generous with his help and with what little he has of his own to give.

In this book the author has managed to get inside the head and heart of this exceptional person and he uses him to tell us about this terrible and difficult time in American history. We come to realize how confused the Northern military situation was; generals kept changing and Washington could not find someone who could lead their armies in a forceful and supportive way. The Southerners, or Rebels, had their problems too, and through Rufus we are able to see their side of the story, their feelings about the conflict. As in all of the books in this series, there is a section at the back of the book which describes life in America in 1862 which includes illustrations and photographs of the period.